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Live Commentary: Wales 23-19 Italy - as it happened

Follow Sports Mole's live coverage of the Rugby World Cup warm-up match between Wales and Italy.
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Wales secured a narrow 23-19 win in their final warm-up match for the Rugby World Cup against Italy at the Millennium Stadium this evening.

Leonardo Sarto scored an early try for the visitors, before George North went over for Warren Gatland's side.

Leigh Halfpenny added a string of penalties in the second half to open up a lead for Wales, but he and Rhys Webb were both stretchered off with serious-looking injuries.

Read how all the action unfolded below.


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Good afternoon! Warren Gatland's Wales side will be getting their final Rugby World Cup warm-up match underway shortly, as they taken on Italy in Cardiff. Let's start with a look at the teams.

WALES STARTING XV: Halfpenny, Cuthbert, Allen, Williams, North, Biggar, Webb, Jenkins, Owens, Francis, Ball, Day, King, Warburton, Faletau

ITALY STARTING XV: Masi, Sarto, Morisi, Garcia, Venditti, Allan, Gori, Rizzo, Ghiraldini, Castrogriovanni, Geldenhuys, Furno, Zanni, Minto, Parisse

It will be George North's first match at the Millennium Stadium for six months. The winger has had issues with concussions since the Six Nations, but managed the full 80 minutes in last week's win over Ireland. Gatland has made five changes to the side that played in Dublin two weeks ago, with Sam Warburton making his first appearance in the warm-ups, while Cory Allen, Jake Ball, Dominic Day and James King all come in.

Italy were on the wrong side of a 48-7 scoreline at Murrayfield last week, leaving them without a win in their preparations for this autumn's World Cup. As a result, there are three changes, with captain Sergio Parisse coming in, along with Andrea Masi and Edoardo Gori.

Ahead of this match, George North told reporters: "For me, it was never a big issue about returning to play. I have done everything properly and have ticked all the boxes, and I knew I could go out there and give it my all. You have got to focus on making sure you are fit and well. I knew I would come back, it was just a matter of getting it right. I was just delighted to be back playing."

It's just 15 days until Wales get their World Cup campaign underway, with a match against Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium. It's a tricky group for Gatland's side, as they will face Australia, England and Fiji, as well as Uruguay, in Pool A. The Welsh side will need to play their very best rugby if they are to match or better their run to the semi-finals from the 2011 tournament.

Italy won't be expecting to progress from Pool D, with France, Ireland, Canada and Romania in their group. Their first match is in just two weeks, as they face France at Twickenham.

When these sides last met in the final round of fixtures in this year's Six Nations, it was Wales who came away with a comfortable win, thrashing the Azzurri 61-20 in Rome. With home advantage this afternoon, Wales will surely be hoping for a similarly convincing result this afternoon. Incidentally, the roof will be shut on the Millennium Stadium today.

Right then, the players are on the pitch ready for kickoff. Before the action can get underway though it's time for the national anthems.

Both anthems are well received, with the Italian fans in the minority, but still making themselves head. The players line up ready for kickoff.

KICKOFF! Dan Biggar gets the action underway.

Wales are on the attack from the start, with Sam Warburton running at the Italian line, before Halfpenny and Scott Williams get a touch. Sergio Parisse intercepts and sprints down the sideline looking for an early try. Williams tackles him just short though.

TRY! Wales 0-5 Italy (Leonardo Sarto)

Parisse may not have made it to the line, but Allan picks it up and passes it back to Leonardo Sarto, who breaks off a tackle from Alex Cuthbert to launch himself over the line.

MISSED CONVERSION! Tommaso Allan lines up the conversion, but his kick strikes the post, preventing him from extending the visitors' lead.

Wales have the ball back, looking to quickly get back on level terms after a disappointing start to the game. Italy get a scrum though, which they force a penalty from as Wales collapse the scrum, allowing Allan to kick it downfield for a lineout. Italy certainly look keen to make the most of their chances in the early stages of this tie.

PENALTY! Wales 0-8 Italy (Tommaso Allan)

Wales haven't really got going yet, and Ken Owens is caught in an offside position, giving the visitors a penalty. Allan is right in front of the posts, so it's a simple chip over for three more points.

Wales suddenly burst forward, with Rhys Webb being brought down short, before handing it off to the onrushing George North. He tries to dive over, but finds his path blocked again.

TRY! Wales 5-8 Italy (George North)

Biggar gets the ball out from the middle to Williams, who quickly passes it on to North, who is lurking on the left wing, and uses his pace to power over in the corner.

MISSED CONVERSION! It's a rare miss from Leigh Halfpenny, but it was a tight angle for the Wales full-back, who slices it just wide of the right post.

Italy have the ball again, but Sam Warburton makes the challenge, knocking the ball out of Francesco Minto's hands. Alex Cuthbert tries to make the most of the turnover, but Parisse halts his run. Faletau keeps the ball in Welsh hands, setting up North for another run down the left, but Italy have numbers back.

Cory Allen runs with the ball as Wales continue to put Italy under pressure at the back, but Gonzalo Garcia times his tackle well to bring him down a couple of metres short. It's certainly been an open game so far.

There's an injury concern for Wales, as Alex Cuthbert gets a flailing arm in the face, leaving him with blood pouring from his forehead. Matthew Morgan comes on in his place while he goes off for some stitches.

Italy have a lineout, from which Garcia finds Parisse, but Gori gives away a penalty, allowing Biggar to kick it down just short of the try line for Wales.

After a rather frantic opening 15 minutes, it started to fall a little flat in the last couple of minutes, with the mistakes creeping in from both teams. George North lets the ball slip through his hands, before Ghirladini fails to grab a low pass. Wales have a scrum, allowing Jake Ball and Warburton to try to get it back into Italy territory, but it's slow progress.

Rhys Webb looks to be quite seriously injured as he crumples to the pitch under a tackle, leaving him screaming and clutching his right leg. The physios run out, and quickly call for the stretcher. This could be a big blow for Warren Gatland so close to the World Cup, losing the WRU's player of the year just two weeks before their opening match of the tournament.

Gareth Davies will be coming on for Gareth Davies, but the medics are still working on Rhys Webb, who is receiving oxygen before being transferred onto the stretcher. The Wales bench looks really concerned. In better news, Alex Cuthbert is back on the sideline, clearly ready to come back on after having the cut on his forehead stitched.

Finally, Webb is stretchered off, still receiving oxygen as the cart drives off the pitch. He has his head in his hands, clearly devastated to go down so close to the World Cup.

PENALTY! Wales 8-8 Italy (Leigh Halfpenny)

Just moments after the restart, Italy give away a penalty, giving Halfpenny a chance to kick the ball over from the edge of the 22, levelling the scores. Wales had been pretty attacking prior to the Webb injury, but his teammates are still clearly shaken, so go for the posts rather than kicking to the corner and pushing for the try.

It's virtually silent in the almost full Millennium Stadium as the Welsh fans take in the Webb injury. Italy soon force a penalty of their own down the other end, and it looks like Allan is going for the posts in a bid to restore the visitors' lead.

PENALTY! Wales 8-11 Italy (Tommaso Allan)

Allan makes it two from three attempts, booting the ball straight through the middle to edge Italy back in front. It feels like the Wales players are just desperate to get to half time and hear what's happened to Rhys Webb.

Italy are looking the more likely as half time approaches, forcing another lineout, which Ghiraldini launches a little deep, allowing Wales to kick is away. Jake Ball puts it back in play from a Wales lineout, with Jenkins driving towards the try line. This is better from Wales, who have been rather flat.

North is brought down short of the line, before Alex Cuthbert tries to launch himself over the top in a rather acrobatic style, but it doesn't come off, and Italy have a scrum.

HALF TIME: Wales 8-11 Italy

At the interval, Italy have the narrow lead after making a quick start. It looked like Wales were started to hit their stride and get back into it, but the injury to Rhys Webb marred the spell for the home side.

Sergio Parisse certainly showed Italy's intent from the start, making an excellent one-handed interception near the Italy try line before taking it almost all the way back for the visitors, before eventually setting up Sarto for the opening score.

George North has looked lively for Wales as he continues to get back towards match fitness after a long spell out with concussions. He had a hat-trick of tries against Italy when they played back in the Six Nations earlier this year, and already has one to his name this evening.

Wales have got options on the bench should Gatland want to make changes, but the likes of George North and Sam Warburton do still need match time. Rhys Priestland, Luke Charteris and Paul James could all come on for the hosts in the second half.

The players are heading back out ready for the restart.

RESTART! Tommaso Allan takes the kickoff for the visitors, getting the second half underway.

Sergio Parisse and Leigh Halfpenny both go for the same high ball, resulting in the visitors getting a lineout. Gori and Geldenhuys try to wheel the maul around to take them towards the try line, but Wales just survive.

BBC Sport is reporting that an ambulance is ready to take Rhys Webb to a nearby hospital, but Wales are waiting until he's been administered a high dose of pain killers to make the journey more comfortable.

Wales really haven't seen much of the ball since the restart, but they try to create something as Scott Williams powers into Italy territory, before Garcia kicks the ball out of Davies's hands, giving the hosts a penalty.

PENALTY! Wales 11-11 Italy (Leigh Halfpenny)

Halfpenny splits the uprights for the second time today, getting Wales back on level terms again. Warren Gatland's side have never been ahead in this match, can they find a way to take the lead now?

Sarto fires a booming kick towards the Wales try line, but Halfpenny gets to it first to win it back for the home side. From a lineout, Ball grabs it for the home side, but a knock on hands it straight back to the visitors. Neither side have taken control of this tie, it really is a scrappy match.

Wales made a couple of changes a few minutes ago, including the introduction of Paul James. He gives away a penalty in the scrum though, which allows Italy to force a lineout down the other end. It's Wales's ball, but Parisse snatches it away for the visitors.

Wales quickly force the turnover, and try to up the tempo a big, with Biggar and James King passing the ball around in the middle, before Day tries to drive through the middle, but he loses the ball. Meanwhile, a few of the Italy players are starting to struggle with cramp, including Parisse.

Parisse is soon back on his feet, and manages to shrug off a challenge from Gethin Jenkins as he tries to bring the ball out from the back, but a knock on once he passes the ball gives Wales the scrum.

PENALTY! Wales 14-11 Italy (Leigh Halfpenny)

Italy can't get their scrum set, and the referee loses his patience, awarding Wales the penalty, which Halfpenny fires straight through the middle, putting the home side ahead for the first time this evening.

DROP GOAL! Wales 14-14 Italy (Carlo Canna)

The lead is a short-lived one as Canna picks the ball up just inside Wales territory. He doesn't see any options open so goes straight for the posts, making the sides level again.

PENALTY! Wales 17-14 Italy (Leigh Halfpenny)

No sooner have Italy got back on level terms than Wales force a penalty down the other end. Halfpenny wastes no time firing it over again.

Wales want a try now, with North, Williams and Davies all bearing down on the try line after a quick break from Moriarty. Ken Owens tries to force his way through, knowing that Wales have a penalty advantage, but Italy manage to get men back to stop the hosts getting their second try of the match.

PENALTY! Wales 20-14 Italy (Leigh Halfpenny)

After a rather dull start to the second half it's certainly livened up in the last few minutes. Wales are unable to force the ball over following Moriarty's impressive break, so they take up the penalty. It's in an easy position for Halfpenny to tap over, adding his fifth kick of the day.

It's a potential disaster for Wales as Halfpenny tries to haul in a high ball, appearing to pull his hamstring in the process. The full-back is receiving oxygen, and the stretcher is being called for. With Rhys Webb seemingly also picking up a serious injury this could be an absolutely catastrophe so close to the World Cup.

Halfpenny gets placed on the stretcher and carted off. He receives a standing ovation as he disappears down the tunnel. It was a big of a surprise that Gatland had left Halfpenny on for so long, having already seen a key player go down injured in the first half, but he proved instrumental in adding the points needed to put Wales in front.

As with Webb's injury in the first half, Halfpenny's exit has left the stadium really flat. Although it initially looked like he grabbed his hamstring, it looked like the physios were working on his knee. With him needing oxygen, it looks like it might be a bit more serious than a tweaked hamstring.

PENALTY! Wales 23-14 Italy (Dan Biggar)

With Halfpenny off, it's Dan Biggar who takes over the kicking duties, and he proves himself a capable deputy as he curls it in from the left after an offside by Italy. If Halfpenny is out of the World Cup, he'll need to be on top form with his kicking.

Italy haven't given up, although they would need a huge slice of luck to get back into this with just a couple of minutes left. Matias Aguero and Gori both try to slip through the Welsh line, but the hosts are holding firm.

TRY! Wales 23-19 Italy (Guglielmo Palazzani)

Italy suddenly cut the ball out to the right, allowing Palazzani to squeeze over in the corner in the final seconds.

MISSED CONVERSION! Allan can't split the uprights to cut the gap to two points, as it curls away from the left post at the last second.

FULL TIME: Wales 23-19 Italy

So, Wales secure a narrow win over Italy in their final warm-up for the Rugby World Cup. It wasn't the best performance, and it will be hugely overshadowed by the injuries to Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny.

Well, that's all from the Millennium Stadium this evening. As soon as we hear more about the injuries we'll have the details on our rugby page. Until then, thanks for joining me today. Goodbye.

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Liam Williams of Wales celebrates scoring his try during the RBS 6 Nations match between Italy and Wales at Stadio Olimpico on March 21, 2015
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