A much sterner challenge awaits in Dublin next weekend but Wales started the Wayne Pivac era with a comprehensive 42-0 drubbing of Italy.

The defence of the Six Nations crown began with the expected five points at Principality Stadium, although the bonus took a worrying amount of time to come.

A first-half double by Josh Adams was followed by an effort by impressive debutant Nick Tompkins before the fourth finally came on 76 minutes when George North went over from close range, dragged over by captain Alun Wyn Jones.

There was still time for that man Adams to have the last say by going over for his hat-trick to improve his remarkable Test record to 10 tries in his last eight.

Job done but Pivac knows far, far tougher tests will follow as he attempts to mirror the effort of his predecessor Warren Gatland to keep the Six Nations trophy in Cardiff.

Italy were awful in the first half and the game was long gone by the time they showed some tenacity after the break.

Wales showed flashes – and it was never going to be razzle dazzle from the off under Pivac – but will need to be much sharper in Ireland next Saturday.

But they will prosper from the hit out against Italy with Taulupe Faletau getting valuable minutes and McNicholl and Tompkins making their debuts, with both of them doing well.

Pivac will be tempted to go with the same 23 again with no need to rush back those that missed out through injury niggles.

His biggest selection headache will be midfield – has the impressive Tompkins, a specialist centre, done enough to replace wing North with Ireland sure to stretch the makeshift 13?

South Wales Argus:

There was expectation of this being a brave new daring world under Pivac but there was a Test match to be won, so the right boot of Dan Biggar came first.

The fly-half struck a trio of penalties to earn a 9-0 lead after 16 minutes, working towards securing the four points before thoughts could turn to the expected bonus.

A feature of the Gatland era was discipline and that continued in the opening exchanges with Wales staying on the right side of Pontypool-born English referee Luke Pearce while Italy conceded five in the opening quarter.

The fifth of those – a holding on penalty earned by Saracens centre Tompkins, on while fellow debutant McNicholl had a head injury assessment – allowed Wales to move into the visitors’ half, spread the ball quickly from the lineout (with one of the passes a peach by Tompkins) and work wing Adams over in the left corner.

At 14-0 it was clear that the Pivac era would not be started in ignominious fashion.

Now they started to go for the five-pointers with a 29th-minute penalty kicked to the corner.

The drive was stopped but Adams wasn’t with the winger found by an outrageous through-the-legs pass by Biggar, who then converted for 21-0.

Italy were a shambles – racking up handling errors, penalties and missed tackles – yet had a chance to strike from the final play of the half thanks to a jackal by Gloucester flanker Jake Polledri.

The first drive was stopped illegally by Wyn Jones, the second went nowhere and it remained 21-0 at the break.

South Wales Argus:

Italy threatened again at the start of the second half but pressure in the 22 failed to lead to points, with Gwent’s Byron Hayward the new man to be pleased with Welsh frugality after succeeding Shaun Edwards as defence coach.

Wales were struggling to get going and time was ticking away to earn the four-try extra… but the bench did the trick approaching the hour.

A charge into the Italian half by Dragons lock Cory Hill – on his return to Test rugby after the injury against England last year – was followed by a gallop through by the impressive Tompkins.

Biggar added the simple conversion and Wales had a quarter to secure a five-point haul.

Two minutes later it looked like the five points was secure when Tompkins calmly gave George North a run-in only for the try to be chalked off after TMO intervention because of a knock-on in the build-up.

North wasn’t to be denied with four minutes left when he was helped over the line by lock Jones after Wales had hammered away.

The score was repeating with the clock in the red when Dragons prop Leon Brown went close and then Adams wriggled over.

Wales: L Halfpenny, J McNicholl (N Tompkins 10-21), G North, H Parkes (N Tompkins 52), J Adams, D Biggar (J Evans 68), T Williams (R Webb 60), W Jones (R Evans 55), K Owens (R Elias 62), D Lewis (L Brown 60), J Ball (C Hill 55), AW Jones (captain), A Wainwright, J Tipuric, T Faletau (R Moriarty 52).

Scorers: tries – J Adams (3), N Tompkins, G North; conversions – D Biggar (2), L Halfpenny (2); penalties – D Biggar (3).

Italy: M Minozzi, L Sarto, L Morisi, C Canna, M Bellini, T Allan, C Braley, A Lovotti, L Bigi (captain), G Zilocchi, A Zanni, N Cannone, J Polledri, S Negri, B Steyn.

Replacements: F Zani, D Fischetti, M Riccioni, D Budd, M Lazzaroni, G Licata, G Palazzani, J Hayward.

Referee: Luke Pearce (England)

Attendance: 68,582

Argus star man: Dan Biggar