Rugby: Rampant Wales lay down gauntlet for Ireland and England

LONDON (REUTERS) - Wales blew Italy away with seven second-half tries to surge to a 61-20 victory on Saturday, which put them in pole position to win rugby union's Six Nations Championship ahead of Ireland and England.

If Ireland beat Scotland and England overcome France later on Saturday, all three teams will finish level on eight points but the Welsh have a significant advantage in points difference following their rout of Italy in Rome.

Ireland must beat the Scots by 20 points or England defeat France by 16 points to knock Wales off the top of the standings.

It was an extraordinary turnaround by Wales who spluttered in the first half and led only 14-13 at the interval.

But they produced a scintillating display of attacking rugby as winger George North crossed the line three times and Liam Williams, Rhys Webb, Sam Warburton and Scott Williams also went over to put Wales ahead 61-13 in the dying minutes.

There was a late sting in the tail for the inspired Welsh, however.

Italy winger Leonardo Sarto burst down the left, evaded the tackle of Dan Biggar and touched down in the corner before Luciano Orquera kicked the touchline conversion to give Ireland and England a late lifeline.

Wales centre Jamie Roberts scored the game's opening try and Giovanbattista Venditti went over for Italy who started brightly and were scenting a famous victory at half-time before being swamped by a red tide.

Scotland take on Ireland at Murrayfied in Edinburgh and England host France at Twickenham in London.