Hook takes centre stage against Italy
February 24, 2011
James Hook is back in midfield for Wales © Getty Images
Italy coach Nick Mallett has made three changes to his side to face Wales in Saturday's Six Nations clash at the Stadio Flaminio.
Luciano Orquera drops to the bench following a poor defensive display against England, with Benetton Treviso's Kristopher Burton taking his place at fly-half. Treviso's Robert Barbieri joins captain Sergio Parisse and Alessandro Zanni in the back-row, taking over from Valerio Bernabo.
Racing Metro lock Santiago Dellape earns a start and will partner Quintin Geldenhuys in the second-row, replacing Aironi's Carlo del Fava.
Benetton Treviso scrum-half Fabio Semenzato will make his first start in front of the home crowd after making his Azzurri debut against England earlier this month, while on the bench there is a recall for hooker Carlo Festuccia in place of the injured Fabio Ongaro.
James Hook returns to the Wales midfield as the result of an injury to Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies. In the only change from their victory over Scotland two weeks ago Hook shifts to outside-centre, the position he filled during last year's Championship, to win his 50th cap, with Stephen Jones recalled at fly-half.
Davies picked up a hamstring problem at Murrayfield and with Tom Shanklin, Andrew Bishop and Gavin Henson all sidelined with injuries, Hook's pursuit of the No.10 jersey has again been derailed by his admirable versatility.
There is a boost to Wales on the bench, where Cardiff Blues winger Leigh Halfpenny makes his comeback from injury, taking Jones' place among the replacements.
Italy: L McLean (Treviso); A Masi (Racing Metro), G Canale (Clermont), A Sgarbi (Treviso), Mirco Bergamasco (Stade Francais); K Burton (Treviso), F Semenzato (Treviso); S Perugini (Aironi), L Ghiraldini (Treviso), M Castrogiovanni (Leicester), S Dellape (Racing-Metro), Q Geldenhuys (Aironi), A Zanni (Treviso), R Barbieri (Treviso), S Parisse (Stade Francais).
Replacements: C Festuccia (Racing-Metro), A Lo Cicero (Racing-Metro), V Bernabo (Treviso), M Vosawai (Treviso), P Canavosio (Aironi), L Orquera (Brive), T Benvenuti (Treviso)
Wales: L Byrne (Ospreys); M Stoddart (Scarlets), J Hook (Ospreys), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys); P James (Ospreys), M Rees (Scarlets, capt), C Mitchell (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), A-W Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys)
Replacements: R Hibbard (Ospreys), J Yapp (Cardiff Blues), J Thomas (Ospreys), J Turnbull (Scarlets), T Knoyle (Scarlets), R Priestland (Scarlets), L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues)
Referee Wayne Barnes (Eng)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson
Paul Eddison explains how the French sold English clubs down the river and why their domestic game will go from strength to strength
'Nothing can prepare you for the noise of the Millennium Stadium though, you just can't hear anything." Tom Hamilton talks to Cory Allen
Following a weekend where Wales suffered more heartbreak against Australia and the Aviva Premiership showed its class, the Monday Maul looks back at some of the key talking points