WARREN Gatland believes Wales will be served well by their tough Six Nations opener against Italy, writes Chris Kirwan.

In November the head coach said that the autumn Tests were “almost like pre-season for us, getting ready for the Six Nations” yet they failed to start their campaign with a bang.

Wales looked set to ease to victory when they headed to their changing room with a 17-3 half-time lead yet they had to settle for a 23-15 success against the spirited Azzurri.

While there is plenty to work on ahead a round two trip to Dublin, the champions did avoid a repeat of their 2013 opening loss to Ireland.

"It was tough," Wales head coach Gatland said. "We've got to give Italy a lot of credit.

"We are pretty satisfied. There were some real positives, and there were some things to work on.

"We definitely kept them in the game in terms of a couple of crucial turnovers and an intercept, but we are off to a reasonable start and I wouldn't be surprised if Italy win a few games in this competition.

"It will focus the minds for next week (when Wales tackle Ireland in Dublin). It wasn't an easy run-out and it was tough, which was the way we wanted it.

"There are just are a few things for us to fix up on in terms of making sure we are a bit more accurate and clinical. We know we get stronger as a tournament goes on. It's that first one, and now we can look forward to the rest of it."

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones insisted that his side were always in control, even when Michele Campagnaro raced over to make it 20-15.

“It probably looked as if we were under more pressure than we actually felt out there,” said the lock.

"We were a bit ragged at times, but we showed ambition and a will to play.

"We showed ambition, and at times you get mistakes, but that was a big potential banana skin, if you like, to get out of the way.

"We were acutely aware of the performances Italy put in last year (beating France and Ireland), hence the realisation of how difficult this was going to be."