Despite having not played a competitive game since March 2020 Wales comfortably dispatched the Azzurri 25-8 at the Arms Park with their pack taking complete control. And former Scarlets forwards coach Cunningham believes it was a good start to the Championship ahead of facing Ireland this Friday night.
“I’m just really pleased to start the campaign with a win,” he said. “I think that was something really important for us to try and get momentum in the championship.
“For some of these young players this was their first experience of rugby at test level at under 20s so it was a great feeling for them to get the win as well. There’s massive growth in us. It’s just about showing we can learn quickly because there’s not much time between games especially in this year’s championship.
“I don’t think we showed everything against Italy. The conditions affected us especially in the second-half with the rain but I’m sure if the conditions are better you’ll see us spreading the ball, and giving our talented backline more chances on the ball.”
Two of the standout players were outside-half Sam Costelow who kicked 18 points and openside flanker Harri Deaves who was man of the match. And Cunningham believes they will have a crucial role to play as the championship progresses.
“Harri has been great and he leaves everything on the field,” he said. “You can see that from his performances and he throws himself into everything.
“The boys feed off his energy and physicality which is great for us in the group. That was exactly what we wanted from Sam.
“We wanted him to show his experiences of playing in the PRO14 for the Scarlets. He showed his maturity out there in slotting those kicks, a nice drop goal, and also keeping us in the game with his game management, and also his chat out there was great.”
Next up for Wales is Ireland at the Arms Park this Friday night. Richie Murphy’s side were mightily impressive as they cruised to a 38-7 victory over Scotland in their opening match.
“It’ll be a tough challenge against Ireland and a different type of challenge,” said Cunningham. “They play a different style to the Italians with a bit more width to their game.
“They’ll test us with their kicking game as well which they showed against Scotland. They are fairly strong up front as well so it’s going to be tough.
“We’ve got to make sure we recover properly because it’s a short turnaround to make sure we fill the tanks so the boys can go again on Friday. I think it’s about putting positives together back to back.
“There was possibly a bit of a lack of cohesion with minimum game time together. We did some good things and then backed it up with a negative while there were a few discipline issues as well because we gave the Italians some piggyback penalties up the field.
“If we can iron out those issues then I think we’ll be in a good place.”