Wales take on Italy this weekend already out of the title race following their 37-27 defeat to Ireland in Dublin on February 24.
Warren Gatland will name his team for Sunday’s clash at the Principality Stadium on Wednesday as Wales seek to return to winning ways following two successive defeats to England and Ireland.
With an eye on next year’s World Cup, some youngsters should be given a chance as well give an international debut to one of Wales’ most consistent performers over the last two or three years.
Bottom of the table Italy come to Cardiff low on confidence following heavy defeats to England, Ireland and France and the fixture represents a good chance for Wales to build their strength in depth.
The back-three could see two changes as Saracens’ Liam Williams replaces Leigh Halfpenny at full-back with Worcester’s Josh Adams taking Williams’ spot on the right wing.
Williams gets the nod at 15 because he offers more of an attacking threat than Halfpenny.
Halfpenny has enjoyed an impressive Six Nation thus far with his goal-kicking absolutely immaculate, his positional play excellent, as well as being solid in defence and sound under the high ball. He has also shown a bit more spark in attack at times, especially against Scotland.
But as Wales continue to develop their attacking, high-tempo, ball in hand game, having a full-back who offers a real threat in attack is essential, so the dangerous Williams starts at 15.
While in midfield, Ospreys youngster Owen Watkin comes in at 12 with the Scarlets’ Hadleigh Parkes, who has played at 13 on different occasions, moving to 13 in place of Scott Williams. Parkes offers more in attack than the solid Williams.
While at out-half, Rhys Patchell comes in for Dan Biggar at 10 by virtue of the greater attacking threat he offers at ten and the fact that he is able to get his backline moving better than the experienced Biggar.
Gatland already knows all about what Biggar offers and giving Patchell another start gives the 24-year-old another opportunity to present his case at fly-half as well as gaining further international experience.
In the front-row, Dragons youngster Elliot Dee comes in for Ken Owens at hooker for his first international start. Five-times capped Dee has done well when coming on for the Scarlets skipper, and Sunday would give Gatland the chance to see how the 23-year-old does when starting.
In the second-row, Bradley Davies comes in for Corey Hill to offer a bigger ball-carrying presence against a physical Italian pack. While in the back-row, Taulupe Faletau returns at number eight in place of Ross Moriarty, after recovering from a knee injury to make his first appearance in this year’s tournament.
The Scarlets’ James Davies, who has topped the PRO14 turnover charts for the last couple of years, replaces Josh Navidi at seven to make his international bow.
With his excellent ball-handling skills, tremendous tackling ability and dynamism, the 27-year-old will add to Wales’ embarrassment of riches in the back-row.
On the bench, Nicky Smith offers cover at loosehead in place of the injured Wyn Jones, with the versatile Josh Navidi who can play all across the back-row and who has been in fine form, covers numbers six, seven and eight.
The outstanding Justin Tipuric who’s quality Gatland is well aware of, drops out of the matchday squad but would come back into the squad for France.
While behind the scrum, Owen Williams comes back into the matchday 23 to cover fly-half and centre with Dan Biggar dropping out of the matchday squad. Williams impressed at 12 during the autumn and with his creativity and distribution skills, suits Wales’ new gameplan down to a tee, with George North retaining his place on the bench.
Here’s our matchday 23
15. Liam Williams
14. Josh Adams
13. Hadleigh Parkes
12. Owen Watkin
11. Steff Evans
10. Rhys Patchell
9. Gareth Davies
1. Rob Evans
2. Elliot Dee
3. Samson Lee
4. Bradley Davies
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Captain)
6. Aaron Shingler
8. Taulupe Faletau
7. James Davies
16. Ken Owens
17. Nicky Smith
18. Tomas Francis
19. Corey Hill
20. Josh Navidi
21. Scott Williams
22. Owen Williams
23. George North