Six Nations

Warburton starts for Wales against Italy

2017-02-02 14:24
Sam Warburton (Getty)

London - Former captain Sam Warburton will start for Wales against Italy after being included in interim coach Rob Howley's experienced side for their Six Nations opener in Rome on Sunday.

Having been replaced as Wales captain by Alun Wyn Jones, there had been speculation that Warburton - struggling with injuries lately - could lose his position in a highly competitive Welsh back row.

But he was included at blindside flanker alongside openside Justin Tipuric and No 8 Ross Moriarty as the uncapped Thomas Young missed out.

Scrum-half Rhys Webb was recalled after missing most of the November programme through injury, with Scarlets duo Scott Williams and Jonathan Davies in midfield and 86 times-capped centre Jamie Roberts on the bench.

Up front, Howley has brought in Ospreys loosehead prop Nicky Smith to replace the injured Gethin Jenkins.

Experienced Bath forwards Taulupe Faletau and Luke Charteris have both been ruled out of the trip to Rome's Olympic Stadium because of injury.

Wales have made five changes to the side that beat South Africa in their final international of 2016, with Webb's return the only change to the back-line.

"I am delighted to name an experienced team for the game against Italy and to welcome back five players who missed out on the opportunity against South Africa in the autumn," said Howley.

"The Six Nations is a special tournament and we are looking forward to being highly competitive," added former Wales scrum-half Howley, in charge while Warren Gatland is seconded to the British and Irish Lions.

"We feel this is the best side selected to start the campaign. We want to get off to a good start, and we feel experience will be vital in that."

Wales thrashed Italy 67-14 in last season's Six Nations and have won their last 10 Tests against the Azzurri.

But under new coach Conor O'Shea, Italy achieved a first win over South Africa in November and Howley said: "We know we are going to Rome to face a hugely motivated and very competitive Italian side."

Italy named their side on Wednesday, with the team showing five changes - mostly in the pack - from the team that beat the Springboks 20-18 in Florence.

Teams:

Italy

15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Giulio Bisegni, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Luke McLean, 11  Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Maxime Mbanda, 6 Abraham Steyn, 5 George Biagi, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Ornel Gega, 1 Andrea Lovotti

Substitutes: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Sami Panico, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Francesco Minto, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Michele Campagnaro

Wales

15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Nicky Smith

Substitutes: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Cory Hill, 20 James King, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Jamie Roberts

Read more on:    italy  |  wales  |  six nations  |  sam warburton  |  rugby
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