Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Taulupe Faletau will captain Wales for the first time as head coach Warren Gatland on Wednesday announced 10 changes to the starting line-up for the Six Nations clash against Italy.
James Davies, younger brother of Wales and British and Irish Lions centre Jonathan, is one of the fresh faces brought in by Gatland for Sunday’s match in Cardiff following a 37-27 defeat against Ireland 10 days ago.
Wing George North, centre Owen Watkin, fly-half Gareth Anscombe and hooker Elliot Dee have all been handed starts.
The five starting XV survivors from Dublin are Liam Williams, who moves from wing to full-back instead of Leigh Halfpenny, wing Steffan Evans, centre Hadleigh Parkes, scrum-half Gareth Davies and lock Cory Hill.
Regular skipper Alun Wyn Jones is rested, while Gatland has opted for a new-look back-row of Davies, Justin Tipuric in the number six shirt and fit-again Bath No.8 Faletau, who makes a first appearance in this season’s tournament.
“It is a great opportunity for Taulupe. He is a world class player, hugely experienced and this will be great for his development and we are looking forward to seeing those leadership qualities come through,” said Gatland.
“We have made some changes, but we are bringing in a lot of quality and a lot of experience with the likes of Bradley Davies, Justin Tipuric, George North and Taulupe.
“Add into that James Davies who gets his first cap, Elliot Dee who gets his first start — this is a great opportunity for them to play tournament rugby.
“It is challenging making changes, but we have picked a really exciting team and Sunday is their chance.”
Liam Williams; George North, Owen Watkin, Hadleigh Parkes, Steffan Evans; Gareth Anscombe, Gareth Davies; Taulupe Faletau (capt), James Davies, Justin Tipuric; Bradley Davies, Cory Hill; Tomas Francis, Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith
Replacements: Ken Owens, Rob Evans, Samson Lee, Seb Davies, Ellis Jenkins, Aled Davies, Rhys Patchell, Leigh Halfpenny