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
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
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
"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
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.
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
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