Wales vs. Italy Rugby 2014: Date, Time, Live Stream, TV Info and Preview

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2014

CARDIFF, WALES - JANUARY 28:  Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones (l) and Dan Biggar (r) share a joke during Wales training ahead of their RBS Six Nations match against Italy on saturday, at the Vale hotel on January 28, 2014 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Saturday's Six Nations opener pits two teams with quite opposite expectations of the 2014 tournament against one another.

Warren Gatland's team are vying for a third successive title whilst Jacques Brunel's remain in search of their first-ever championship, hoping to avoid the wooden spoon award just as they did in 2013.

The Millennium Stadium will be a harsh atmosphere for the Azzurri to begin their bid anew in impressing among Europe's giants, the Welsh defenders unlikely to feature as hospitable hosts.

Date: Saturday, February 1

Time: 2:30 p.m. GMT/9:30 a.m. ET

Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

Viewing Info: BBC One

Stream: BBC Sport website

Key Battle: Rhys Priestland vs. Tommaso Allan

Wales' No. 10 jersey has been the focus of furious debate in recent months, with crowds of support staking claims as to whether Rhys Priestland or Dan Biggar should start for Gatland at fly-half.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 16:  Rhys Priestland of Wales is tackled by David Pocock of the Wallabies during the International Test Match between the Australian Wallabies and Wales at Etihad Stadium on June 16, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Qui
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

In the end, it's the former who's won the race for Saturday's opener, although the long-term injury suffered by Cardiff Blues' Rhys Patchell undoubtedly helped in easing the battle.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

The Scarlets playmaker will line up opposite another talent hoping to tie down his international future, Tommy Allan, who may have opted for the Scottish team through his family ties but is now in the ascendancy as Brunel's No. 10.

With just a trio of Italian caps to his name, the 20-year-old is still finding his feet in international colours, and although Priestland dwarfs him in that regard, the youngster will nonetheless look to outdo his counterpart.

The Llanelli Scarlets technician benefits from having a wealth of world-class backs operating on his flanks, and Priestland's options lie open, the kicking game likely to yield good reward in the enclosed Welsh surroundings while a running game stands to reap rewards, too.

Allan's weapons may not be of as high a quality, however, and the Welsh pressure will lead to the starlet having to make more crunch decisions himself in what's likely to be his biggest challenge yet, going a great distance in deciding the tie should he fail to perform.

Key Players to Watch

Wales: Scott Williams

CARDIFF, WALES - NOVEMBER 16:  Wales player Scott Williams breaks a tackle during the International Match between Wales and Argentina at the Millennium Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

With Clermont-bound Jonathan Davies out of action for now, Scott Williams has been given licence to continue his run as Wales' outside centre—and with good reason.

The Scarlets figure played the full 80 minutes in three of his team's four November internationals several months ago, staking his own claim on the position and managing to maintain the good reputation he's already built at club level.

Rugby World's Charlie Morgan says that Wales' centre duo could "terrorise" their opponents:

Armed with an alarming burst of pace and good technical skills to boot, the 23-year-old will benefit greatly from Roberts lined up inside him, providing good foundations for crash ball when it's there to be hit.

However, one can bank on Williams creating his own share of gaps against Michele Campagnaro and Alberto Sgarbi, the Treviso partnership who face a mountain of a task in restraining Wales' rampant runners.

Italy: Sergio Parisse

Vincent Yu/Associated Press

Although one would love to pick out a less obvious candidate as the Azzurri's key man this weekend, it's difficult to look past their captain Sergio Parisse, a man who's provided many a gleaming light in dark times for his nation.

The Stade Francais No. 8 goes up against an extremely talented Welsh back row on Saturday, the trio of Justin Tipuric, Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau only slightly upset to be going without the talents of Sam Warburton, who starts on the bench.

So good has Parisse been over the past year that he was one of those shortlisted for 2013's IRB Player of the Year, as confirmed by Mick Cleary of the Telegraph:

Shallow though it may be, Brunel's challengers haven't a chance of stopping Wales unless their chief turns up to the fore.