Gatland makes wholesale changes
March 5, 2009
Alun-Wyn Jones (right) will lead Wales for the first time in Rome © Getty Images
Wales coach Warren Gatland has made wholesale changes to his side to face Italy at the Stadio Flaminio on March 14. Ospreys lock Alun-Wyn Jones will lead his country for the first time, while there is a recall for his Ospreys team-mate Gavin Henson in the centre.
Henson will partner Blues powerhouse Jamie Roberts, who shifts to outside-centre, while James Hook and Dwayne Peel have won recalls at half-back. Ryan Jones is on the bench alongside fellow Grand Slam winners Mike Phillips, Stephen Jones and Gethin Jenkins. Players rested altogether include openside Martyn Williams, prop Adam Jones and lock Ian Gough.
In the back-row Dafydd Jones gets his second start of the tournament alongside Jonathan Thomas, while up front there are starts for John Yapp, Rhys Thomas and hooker Huw Bennett.
The only other players retained from last weekend's loss to France in Paris are wing Shane Williams, No.8 Andy Powell and fullback Lee Byrne.
Wales will have to beat Italy by a considerable margin if they are to keep alive their chances of winning the championship after their final game with Grand Slam chasing Ireland at the Millennium Stadium on March 21.
"We have made a series of changes," said Gatland. "With no disrespect to Italy, if we are to consistently be one of the top four or five teams in the world we need to back the depth in our squad. We have made changes, but there are arguments to say we are stronger in certain positions.
"If I was playing against Italy I would be excited about both the opportunity which presents itself and, looking around me, about the team which has been selected. We have come a long way in the last 12 months and achieved a fantastic amount, but the best teams in the world develop depth of experience in their squad and back themselves.
"The choice of Alun-Wyn as captain next week is an example of us doing exactly that and also looking to the future."
Wales: L Byrne (Ospreys); M Jones (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), G Henson (Ospreys), S Williams (Ospreys); J Hook (Ospreys), D Peel (Sale Sharks); J Yapp (Cardiff Blues), H Bennett (Ospreys), R Thomas (Newport Gwent Dragons), L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), A-W Jones (Ospreys, capt), J Thomas (Ospreys), D Jones (Scarlets), A Powell (Cardiff Blues)
Replacements: M Rees (Scarlets), G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys), M Phillips (Ospreys), S Jones (Scarlets), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues)