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Will Wales 'pain' lead to World Cup gain?

SPOTLIGHT: Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins believes his team’s current woes could end up helping them by the time they travel to the World Cup in France later this year.

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Two years after winning the Six Nations title, Wales are enduring a woeful run of results and defeat by Italy in Rome this Saturday may see them finish bottom, with a first wooden spoon since 2003.

The Welsh have lost three successive matches since Warren Gatland returned for a second spell as coach.

Prior to that, Gatland’s Wales predecessor Wayne Pivac managed a mere three wins from his last 12 Tests.

Wales have just five fixtures left before the World Cup – Italy and France away in the Six Nations, followed by tournament warm-up appointments with England (twice) and world champions South Africa.

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Gatland’s men have a tricky World Cup opener against Fiji in Bordeaux on September 10.

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The Pacific islanders were responsible for the last time Wales failed to reach the knockout stages of a World Cup courtesy of a 38-34 win in 2007.

Wales’ pool rivals this time around also include Australia and Georgia, who stunned Wales 13-12 in Cardiff in November.

Their recent woes have left some pundits fearing a repeat of 16 years ago, with then Wales coach Gareth Jenkins sacked the day after the Fiji defeat at the World Cup.

Neil Jenkins, however, insisted Wednesday: “I think the reality is we probably felt there was going to be some pain about us at this moment in time. We are certainly feeling that.

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“But we have until September to get ourselves right, and I believe we can do that. I would like to think we will be going through the gears from now until then to give us a good chance at a World Cup.”

The more immediate task for Wales is to overcome an Italy side who ended a run of 36 consecutive Six Nations defeats with a 22-21 triumph in Cardiff last year.

Italy, like Wales, have yet to enjoy a Championship win this season but the Azzurri have impressed in losses to reigning champions France and leaders Ireland.

“We are playing a very, very good side and we need to be at full tilt, there is no doubting that, otherwise we could come unstuck,” Jenkins said.

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