Sunday 25 February 2018

Warburton on the bench as Wales name unchanged XV

Andrew Baldock

Sam Warburton has been named on the Wales replacements' bench for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash against Italy in Rome.

Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley confirmed his list of substitutes today after giving a resounding vote of confidence last week to the team that beat France 16-6 and ended an eight-Test losing run.

Warburton, Wales' 2011 World Cup captain who led them to Six Nations title and Grand Slam glory last season, missed the Stade de France encounter because of a shoulder injury.

His fellow back-row forward Ryan Jones took over as skipper, with Justin Tipuric wearing the number seven shirt for a game that saw Wales claim their first victory in Paris since 2005.

Warburton is now fit for a return to action, and he will be joined on the bench by Ospreys lock Alun-Wyn Jones.

Jones suffered a shoulder injury during the Millennium Stadium defeat against Argentina three months ago, and he subsequently underwent surgery.

But he was called into Wales' Six Nations squad last week and has made a couple of comeback appearances for the Ospreys, confirming his fitness.

Cardiff Blues lock Lou Reed and Scarlets flanker Aaron Shingler drop out of the match-day 23 on duty against France, with Howley's bench contingent boasting a total of 264 caps.

Victory for Wales at the Stadio Olimpico would keep them firmly in the Six Nations title race ahead of their remaining fixtures next month against Scotland and England.

Howley said: "We announced last week that we would reward the starting XV that beat France by keeping faith with the same line-up for this weekend's game.

"The side is fit and raring to go and on the bench we have brought in Sam (Warburton) and Alun Wyn (Jones), who have both returned from injury which is a boost to the squad.

"In France the players showed real determination and resilience and we will need that again in Rome.

"Italy have already showed so far in this campaign what they are capable of, so we know the challenge we will be facing on Saturday."

Team: L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), G North (Scarlets); D Biggar (Ospreys), M Phillips (Bayonne); G Jenkins (Toulon), R Hibbard (Ospreys), A Jones (Ospreys), A Coombs (Newport Gwent Dragons), I Evans (Ospreys), R Jones (Ospreys, capt), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets), P James (Bath), C Mitchell (Exeter), A-W Jones (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), L Williams (Cardiff Blues), J Hook (Perpignan), S Williams (Scarlets).

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