Rugby-Webb gets nod at scrumhalf but no Biggar for Wales v Italy
The latter four have only 15 test caps between them. Josh Adams is on the other wing, while Liam Williams returns in the fullback berth and Louis Rees-Zammit is among the replacements.
Scrumhalf Rhys Webb will make his first start for Wales this year in their Six Nations clash with Italy on Saturday, while flyhalf Dan Biggar has been ruled out with a back injury as coach Warren Gatland goes for broke in the crunch game in Rome. Webb will partner number 10 Owen Williams, while rookie centres Mason Grady and Joe Hawkins continue their partnership, and Rio Dyer is on the wing. The latter four have only 15 test caps between them.
Josh Adams is on the other wing, while Liam Williams returns in the fullback berth and Louis Rees-Zammit is among the replacements. With Biggar unavailable, there is no obvious flyhalf cover on the bench, with Hawkins to fill that role if needed.
Italy beat Wales in their previous meeting in Cardiff at the end of the 2022 Six Nations. Neither side have managed a win yet in this year's competition. "We’re trying to get a handle on where we are and what we have to do," Gatland told reporters. "For a number of players, this could be their last year in a Wales jersey so there has to be that transition going forward.
"We’re not quite where we want to be, but it’s about giving clear messages about the improvements we want to make. "We’ve done some good review stuff on Italy this week and where their strengths lie. In attack, we’ve probably been a bit lateral. There’s definitely work-ons."
Hooker and captain Ken Owens will have props Wyn Jones and Tomas Francis either side of him, while the second row is made up of Dafydd Jenkins and Adam Beard. Taulupe Faletau packs down at number eight along with flankers Jac Morgan and Justin Tipuric.
"The message to the players has been that we have to be smart in terms of the way we play but we’ve also got to be brave and make sure that when the opportunities are on we shift the ball," Gatland said. Wales team:
15. Liam Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 83 caps) 14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 47 caps)
13. Mason Grady (Cardiff Rugby – 1 cap) 12. Joe Hawkins (Ospreys – 4 caps)
11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 5 caps) 10. Owen Williams (Ospreys – 5 caps)
9. Rhys Webb (Ospreys – 38 caps) 1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets – 46 caps
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets – 89 caps) captain 3. Tomas Francis (Ospreys – 69 caps)
4. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 44 caps) 5. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 4 caps)
6. Jac Morgan (Ospreys – 8 caps) 7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys – 91 caps)
8. Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff Rugby – 98 caps) Replacements
16. Scott Baldwin (Ospreys – 36 caps) 17. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 18 caps)
18. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby – 48 caps) 19. Rhys Davies (Ospreys – 1 cap)
20. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 7 caps) 21. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 43 caps)
22. George North (Ospreys – 111 caps) 23. Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby – 23 caps)
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