Hibbard: Let's lay down marker

Richard Hibbard has urged Wales to lay down a marker against Italy in Saturday's Six Nations opener.

Wales are bidding for an unprecedented hat-trick of titles and are hot favourites to overcome the Azzurri at the Millennium Stadium.

But sterner tests await, notably against Ireland the following weekend and England at Twickenham in March, and Hibbard says they need to issue a statement of intent against Italy.

"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'," he said.

"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."

Wales' only defeat in their last 10 Six Nations games came in last year's opening fixture against Ireland, but they responded by reeled off four successive wins that culminated with a record 30-3 triumph over England that secured silverware.

"We had one bad half in the entire tournament last year, so we definitely can't start like that again," he added.

"It was an accumulation of things last year. We had lost seven games on the bounce and there was a lot of pressure building. But after that (Ireland game) we didn't concede another try for the rest of the tournament.

"We had the conversation last week (about a possible title hat-trick). We addressed it.

"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 focussed and make sure we win every game.

"They (Wales coaches) want us to be comfortable at the top. That is when we will start beating the southern-hemisphere teams and winning other things apart from the Six Nations."