Wales must send a statement of intent - Hibbard

7:35am Saturday 1st February 2014

WALES must start their campaign with a bang as they hunt a historic hat-trick of Six Nations titles.

Warren Gatland's side are overwhelming favourites for their tournament opener against Italy in Cardiff.

Wales will beat the Azzurri – it will be the biggest shock in Six Nations history if they don't – but the manner of their victory will be all important.

It is shaping up to be one of the most open competitions for some time with England, France and Ireland all fancying their chances of taking the trophy from the Millennium Stadium display cabinet.

But Lions hooker Richard Hibbard wants Wales to show their northern hemisphere foes that they business by powering past the Italians.

He said: "We want to go out, do our best and really get our show on the road and let everyone stand back and think 'Wales are here'.

"I am excited about the start but it will be a tough, physical game. The Italian pack is extremely experienced.

"They have been around the block a few times, and they have their talisman (captain Sergio Parisse) back, which is key for them."

He added: "We could become one of the greatest teams of all, and I think it is do-able. With the squad we have got here, it is definitely possible. The boys are really excited by the challenge.

"But it is like anybody who is on top, everyone is coming after you, aren't they? So we have got to be especially focused and make sure we win every game."

Wales can ill afford to be as sloppy as they were last year when a horror start against Ireland saw their hopes of back-to-back Grand Slams and Triple Crowns go up in smoke after just 42 minutes.

They didn't concede a try for the rest of the tournament and pummelled England 30-3 to win the title but the manner of their awful opener still smarts.

"It's important we start well with the experienced team we've selected because last year we didn't do that," said assistant coach Rob Howley.

"We gave Ireland an opportunity. It wasn't what they created, we made six or seven errors and we can't do that against Italy because they'll thrive on it."

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