Home Rugby Warren Gatland Cuts His Lions From Experimental Squad For Six Nations Clash With Italy

Warren Gatland Cuts His Lions From Experimental Squad For Six Nations Clash With Italy

Wales coach Warren Gatland has named his match-day 23 to face Italy in Round Four of the NatWest 6 Nations and his starting XV is something fans will not have seen before.

Following their defeat to Ireland in Dublin two weeks ago, a loss that ended any realistic chance of Championship glory for another year, the Wales boss has chosen to rest a number of familiar faces and tasked an experimental squad with the job of defeating the Azzurri in Rome on Sunday.

Gone from the squad altogether are his British and Irish Lions Alun Wyn Jones, Ross Moriarty and Dan Biggar, while Leigh Halfpenny and Ken Owens have to settle for a place on the bench.

Taulupe Faletau returns to the fold to captain the side for the first, while Justin Tipuric comes in at blindside with the uncapped James Davies starting at openside.

The now familiar front row of Scarlets trio Ken Owens, Samson Lee and Rob Evans make way for Nicky Smith, Tomas Francis and Elliot Dee as the Wales boss takes the chance to give his tried and tested starters a break.

In the second row, where Wyn Jones has long been a steady stalwart, Gatland has paired Cory Hill with the experienced Bradley Davies, with the veteran captain set to be a spectator for the day.

Gareth Davies retains his place at scrum-half, while Gareth Anscombe steps in at out-half, with Rhys Patchell manning the bench, likely hopeful for another chance to show his worth in the competition.

Hadleigh Parkes and Owen Watkin make up an unfamiliar centre pairing, while in the back row fans will finally see the return of George North to the starting XV.

Keeping North company in the back line will be the in-form Steff Evans and Liam Williams at full-back.

Thought it is clear Gatland has gone heavy on the alchemy in the pack, the back line of North, Evans and Williams is certainly one that is packed with experience and world-beating class.

While Italy boss Conor O’Shea will surely see opportunities to challenge and exploit Gatland’s experimentations in front of a home crowd, he will almost certainly be looking at the Welsh back line with more than a little bit of trepidation.

Kick off on Sunday in Rome is 3:00 GMT.

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