Wales ready for much-changed Azzurri
March 7, 2012
Matthew Rees has been recalled by Wales at hooker © Getty Images
Wales captain Sam Warburton has been ruled out of their Six Nations clash with Italy this weekend on account of a knee injury.
Prop Gethin Jenkins takes over as skipper from Warburton, who has a knee problem, with Ospreys openside Justin Tipuric packing down in the back-row alongside Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau. The highly-rated Tipuric, 22, makes his first Wales start, with Warburton ruled out.
Warren Gatland has made one other change from the side that beat England at Twickenham 10 days ago, recalling fit-again hooker Matthew Rees instead of Ken Owens. Rees' return means Gatland can field the 2009 British and Irish Lions Test front-row of Jenkins, Rees and Adam Jones.
Former Wales captain Rees missed the World Cup due to a neck complaint, while a calf muscle strain hampered him during the early part of Wales' Six Nations campaign.
Centre Jamie Roberts, meanwhile, takes his place in midfield after recovering from a knee injury, allowing Gatland to name an unchanged back division for the fourth successive game. And there is a notable addition to the bench, with World Cup lock Luke Charteris providing second-row cover.
Charteris has played just one game - for Newport Gwent Dragons against Munster three days ago - since undergoing wrist surgery after the World Cup. Three changes on the bench see Charteris replace Tipuric, Owens taking over from Richard Hibbard and James Hook, fit again following a bout of chickenpox, in for Stephen Jones.
Italy coach Jacques Brunel has opted to ring the changes, making seven switches from the side hammered by Ireland in the last round.
Kris Burton reclaims the fly-half jersey from the misfiring Tobie Botes, who drops to the bench, while veteran winger Mirco Bergamasco returns after a long injury lay-off. Clermont Auvergne centre Gonzalo Canale partners Alberto Sgarbi in midfield, while at scrum-half there is a start for Fabio Semenzato.
In the pack, Cornelius Van Zyl is paired with Quintin Geldenhuys in the second-row, while Simone Favaro joins Alessandro Zanni and Sergio Parisse in the loose trio. Up front, Andrea Lo Cicero starts at loose-head.
Wales: L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), G North (Scarlets); R Priestland (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues, capt), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jones (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), I Evans (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons)
Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets), P James (Ospreys) L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), R Jones (Ospreys), L Williams (Cardiff Blues), J Hook (Perpignan), S Williams (Scarlets)
Italy: A Masi (Aironi); L McLean (Treviso), G Canale (Clermont Auvergne), A Sgarbi (Treviso), M Bergamasco (Racing Metro); K Burton (Treviso), F Semenzato (Treviso); A Lo Cicero (Racing Metro), L Ghiraldini (Treviso), L Cittadini (Treviso), Q Geldenhuys (Aironi), C van Zyl (Treviso), A Zanni (Treviso), S Favaro (Aironi), S Parisse (Stade Francais, capt)
Replacements: T D'Apice (Aironi), F Staibano (Aironi), M Bortolami (Aironi), R Barbieri (Treviso), T Botes (Treviso), T Benvenuti (Treviso), G Toniolatti (Aironi)
Referee: G Clancy (Ire)
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