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Wales starts Six Nations defense with 42-0 win over Italy

CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — The post-Warren Gatland era got into full swing for Wales with a 42-0 win over Italy that started its Six Nations title defense in impressive fashion and featured one shining example of the attacking play desired by new coach Wayne Pivac.

There was a look of contentment on Pivac’s face after one of the five tries scored by his team, in particular, when flyhalf Dan Biggar threw a flat pass between his legs -- while looking the wrong way near Italy’s line -- to send winger Josh Adams over in the left corner.

“Wayne’s World” -- as some are labelling Pivac’s Wales tenure -- certainly looked a fun place to be as his team powered into a 21-0 lead after 31 minutes against an opponent also under a new coach in South African Franco Smith.

Capping a dominant display was the sight of George North burrowing his way over the line with three minutes left for his 40th international try to clinch the attacking bonus point, which is commonplace against the Italians these days.

Adams added the last try in stoppage time to clinch his hat trick, and Nick Tompkins claimed the other after coming off the bench for his debut.

Pivac will also be delighted with keeping Italy scoreless, as the Welsh maintained the strong defense which served them so well under Gatland in his 12-year reign that ended after the recent Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Biggar kicked three penalties in the opening 16 minutes as Wales went 9-0 ahead, before a flowing backs move sent the hosts even further ahead two minutes later. It ended with Biggar sending the ball out wide to Adams, the leading try-scorer in the World Cup, and he raced down the touchline before forcing his way over the line just inside the corner flag.

Adams doubled his try tally for the afternoon after that wonderful piece of creativity from Biggar which drew gasps from the crowd and a big grin from Pivac in his coaching box high up in Principality Stadium.

Italy held firm at the start of the second half until flanker Justin Tipuric forced a turnover, lock Cory Hill rampaged forward, and Tompkins raced onto a pop-up pass at a ruck to sidestep his way over near the posts in the 59th.

It was then just a case of whether Wales would grab the bonus point, and North duly delivered -- having had a try disallowed earlier for a knock-on in the buildup.

Italy didn’t win a match in the last four Six Nations and, without talismanic No. 8 Sergio Parisse likely until the final round of this year’s tournament as he slips into retirement, the drought could easily extend to five years.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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