Italy v Wales, Six Nations, Stadio Flaminion, February 26
Gatland laments midfield losses
ESPNscrum Staff
February 23, 2011
Wales' Jonathan Davies stretches the England defence,  Wales v England, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, February 4, 2011
Jonathan Davies has joined a long list of injured Welsh centres © Getty Images

Wales coach Warren Gatland has lamented his lack of midfield options prior to Saturday's Six Nations clash with Italy in Rome.

Gatland has been forced to switch James Hook back to outside-centre from fly-half after Jonathan Davies joined his fellow centres Tom Shanklin, Andrew Bishop and Gavin Henson on the sidelines.

Hook will mark his 50th Test appearance by starting in a third different position of this season's campaign, having started at fullback for the tournament opener against England.

"The midfield competition is a concern for us," Gatland said. "We have Jonathan picking up an injury and Tom Shanklin and Andrew Bishop also injured, and it is difficult when you are looking at players in the regions that are playing there.

"You have [New Zealanders] Casey Laulala and Regan King playing at 13 [for Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets respectively] and often Tommy Bowe plays there for the Ospreys.

"So if you pick up one or two injuries, you do struggle a little bit with depth for picking players into the squad. James is familiar playing 13 for us, and it gives Stephen a good opportunity at 10 against Italy.

"We sort of trawled Wales in terms of what were the alternatives of bringing people in, but we wanted to keep within the squad and it is about getting our best players on the field. We could have looked at another midfield option, but that potentially weakens the squad in terms of bringing someone in fresh, with the calls and continuity."

With Italy having been hammered 59-13 by England in their last outing, Gatland is predicting that there will be a response from the Azzurri in front of their home fans.

"They are dangerous because they will be hurting from the performance against England," he said. "We know how tough they are at home. It [Rome] has been a banana skin for Wales in the past, and it was a tough game for us there two years ago. The key for us is to build on confidence from the result against Scotland. I thought it was a very professional performance."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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