WALES V ITALY (Saturday KO 2.30)

JONATHAN Davies is confident that Wales can handle huge expectation levels as they close in on a second RBS 6 Nations title and Grand Slam of coach Warren Gatland’s four-year reign.

Victory over Millennium Stadium visitors Italy tomorrow would leave Wales needing to beat France in Cardiff a week later for another tournament clean sweep.

Both previous Six Nations Grand Slams – in 2005 under Mike Ruddock and 2008 – were completed on home soil, so all the odds favour Wales backing up their status as World Cup semi-finalists by being crowned European champions.

“The squad is pretty grounded,” Scarlets centre Davies said.

“We all know there is a lot of expectation on us, but I think we can handle that.

“There is a good feeling within the squad and we know what is expected on the field. We are all working hard and doing our jobs, and we are not going away from that. The competition within the squad is fierce at the moment, and it is making training that much more intense. We are working at such a high level now in training.’’ Davies, 23, scored two tries when Wales opened their Six Nations campaign by defeating Ireland in Dublin last month, and impressive form carried on from the World Cup has made him hot property less than 15 months before the British and Irish Lions tour Australia.

And he also bucked a recent trend in Wales after opting to pledge his immediate rugby future with his current employers, rather than head elsewhere.

Davies’ Wales colleagues Mike Phillips, James Hook and Lee Byrne currently play club rugby in France, while three more – Gethin Jenkins, Huw Bennett and Luke Charteris – will follow suit next term.

Davies, though, is staying put, resisting any opportunity that might have come his way to head into France's Top 14 or England’s Aviva Premiership.

“There was a period where it was a tough decision. For a few weeks, it was chopping and changing quite a lot,” Davies added.

“It was a difficult period because it was always on your mind. You want to get it sorted. People are asking you about it all the time.

“You just want to keep your head down and make sure you make the right decision. I spoke to my family and had a meeting with the coaches in Llanelli and some other people as well.

“It went really well, it cleared my mind and put me in the right spot, really.

“I am at the stage of my career where I haven’t developed yet. Other boys who are leaving are probably more experienced and have more rugby under their belt.

“I think it was key for my development to stay in Wales and make sure I keep working hard and cementing my spot in the team. The best place to do that is the Scarlets because of the exciting back-line there.”