Warburton benched by Wales
Cardiff - Alun Wyn Jones will captain defending champions Wales in their Six
Nations opener against Italy on Saturday, with Sam Warburton on the
bench, the Welsh Rugby Union announced on Tuesday.
Jones, who last captained Wales against Italy in 2009, leads a side
bidding to win an unprecedented third consecutive Six Nations crown.
He takes over from Cardiff Blues flanker Warburton, who recently spent two months on the sidelines with a shoulder problem.
Warburton may, however, be handed a starting berth after Racing-Metro's Dan Lydiate had to fly to Paris on Tuesday morning.
partner is due to give birth and the flanker has travelled back to
France to be with her, placing his participation in Saturday's match in
Elsewhere, Lydiate's clubmate Jamie Roberts returns at
centre after missing last year's November Tests due to injury, with the
Scarlets' Rhys Priestland edging out Dan Biggar of Ospreys at fly-half.
prop Paul James replaces injured Cardiff front-rower Gethin Jenkins and
Perpignan's Luke Charteris takes over from the suspended Ian Evans in
the second row.
"We are looking for a good start," said head coach
Warren Gatland in a statement released by the WRU. "We started slowly
last year (losing 30-22 at home to Ireland) and know we need to be ready
from the off.
"Italy started last year's tournament with a win
over France so they will be ready on Saturday and we need to start well
and build confidence and momentum.
"It's a strong, experienced
side, but there was a lot of discussion about the selection, which is a
great position to be in as a coach. We've almost everyone fit for
selection, which is pretty rare.
"Alun Wyn will lead the side, with Sam starting on the bench and he has come through training well."
Warburton among the replacements is Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb, who
is named in a Six Nations match squad for the first time.
Wales team announced on Tuesday to play Italy in the opening Six Nations match at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday
Kick-off at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday is at 16:30 SA time.
15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James
Substitutes: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Andrew Coombs, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 James Hook, 23 Liam Williams