Sunday 25 February 2018

Sam Warburton to start at blindside flanker for Wales' Six Nations opener

Sam Warburton
Sam Warburton

Andrew Baldock

Former Wales captain Sam Warburton will start at blindside flanker in Sunday's RBS 6 Nations clash against Italy.

Justin Tipuric retains the number seven shirt, with Gloucester's Ross Moriarty completing the back-row and Scarlets lock Jake Ball chosen as new skipper Alun Wyn Jones' second-row partner.

Elsewhere, scrum-half Rhys Webb is recalled after missing most of Wales' autumn Test series this season through injury, with Scarlets pair Scott Williams and Jonathan Davies teaming up in midfield and 86 times-capped Jamie Roberts named on the bench.

Interim head coach Rob Howley's team for Rome also includes Ospreys loosehead prop Nicky Smith, who takes over from an injured Gethin Jenkins, but uncapped flankers Thomas Young and Olly Cracknell have missed out making the match-day 23.

Bath forwards Taulupe Faletau and Luke Charteris both miss the Stadio Olimpico encounter due to injury.

Wales team to play Italy in the RBS 6 Nations in Rome on Sunday, February 5:

L Halfpenny (Toulon); G North (Northampton), J Davies (Scarlets), S Williams (Scarlets), L Williams (Scarlets); D Biggar (Ospreys), R Webb (Ospreys); N Smith (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets), S Lee (Scarlets), J Ball (Scarlets), A W Jones (Ospreys, capt), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), J Tipuric (Ospreys), R Moriarty (Gloucester).

Replacements: S Baldwin (Ospreys), R Evans (Scarlets), T Francis (Exeter), C Hill (Newport Gwent Dragons), J King (Ospreys), G Davies (Scarlets), S Davies (Ospreys), J Roberts (Harlequins).

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