Italy v Wales, Six Nations Championship, March 14
Gatland rings the changes for Rome
March 5, 2009
Lock Alun-Wyn Jones will becomes Wales 127th captain when he leads the side out 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."
Italy coach Nick Mallett has handed uncapped Giulio Rubini a starting berth for Saturday's clash in Rome.
The Parma utility back replaces Mirco Bergamasco at number 14, with the latter shifting to centre. Mallett has made one other change from the team which lost 26-6 against Scotland at Murrayfield, with Carlos Nieto replacing Martin Castrogiovanni in Italy's starting XV.
The Azzurri are still without Biarritz fullback Andrea Masi who has completed a three-match ban but has been ruled out by a neck injury. Italy go into this weekend's clash at the Stadio Flaminio looking for their first triumph of the tournament, having lost their opening three games.
Italy: Andrea Marcato (Benetton Treviso), Giulio Rubini (Parma), Gonzalo Canale (Clermont-Auvergne), Mirco Bergamasco (Stade Francais), Matteo Pratichetti (Calvisano), Luke McLean (Calvisano), Paul Griffen (Calvisano), Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais), Mauro Bergamasco (Stade Francais), Alessandro Zanni (Calvisano), Marco Bortolami (Gloucester), Santiago Dellape (Toulon), Carlos Nieto (Gloucester), Leonardo Ghiraldini (Calvisano), Salavatore Perugini (Toulouse).
Replacements: Franco Sbaraglini (Benetton Treviso), Martin Castrogiovanni (Leicester), Carlo Antonio Del Fava (Ulster), Josh Sole (Viadana), Pablo Canavosio (Viadana), Luciano Orquera (Brive), Roberto Quartaroli (Cariparma).
Wales: Lee Byrne (Ospreys); Mark Jones (Scarlets), Jason Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Gavin Henson (Ospreys), Shane Williams (Ospreys); James Hook (Ospreys), Dwayne Peel (Sale Sharks); John Yapp (Cardiff Blues), Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Rhys Thomas (Newport Gwent Dragons), Luke Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys, capt), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Dafydd Jones (Scarlets), Andy Powell (Cardiff Blues)
Replacements: Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Bradley Davies (Cardiff Blues), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Mike Phillips (Ospreys), Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Tom Shanklin (Cardiff Blues)
Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Dave Pearson (England), David Changleng (Scotland)