Rugby Union: Five Nations - Wales looking for a very personal victory at Stradey Park

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The Independent Online
Wales entertain Italy at Stradey Park tonight, the first time they have played there since 1893, but apart the desire to get into shape for the start of their Five Nations campaign against England at Twickenham in a fortnight, there is another more personal reason why they will want to win - Gwyn Jones.

The last time they took the field - against New Zealand in November - they were led out by the Cardiff flanker and although they lost 42-7, showed enough to suggest better days were ahead.

A fortnight later, Jones, trapped in a ruck during a club game, suffered severe spinal injuries which have kept him in hospital and threaten his chances of walking again. He has already given up hope of playing again.

Scrum-half Robert Howley, has taken over the captaincy from Jones, and he is backed up by the exciting Arwel Thomas allied to the more complete skills of Scott Gibbs and Allan Bateman in the centre and Neil Jenkins at full-back. Ieuan Evans returns to the right wing for his 72nd cap, looking for his 34th try for Wales.

Italy's entry into the Five Nations' Championship may not be for another two years, but they have already beaten Ireland and Scotland on home soil this season. An away win would prove beyond doubt that the Italians, who also beat France in Grenoble last year, a week after the French claimed the Grand Slam, are ready to join the elite.

Harlequins' loose-head prop, Massimo Cuttitta, Italy's most experienced player with 57 caps, is fit enough to resume his place in the side after missing the Scotland game because of a rib injury.

WALES: N Jenkins (Pontypridd); I Evans (Bath), A Bateman (Richmond), S Gibbs (Swansea), G Thomas (Cardiff); A Thomas (Swansea), R Howley (Cardiff, capt); A Lewis (Cardiff), B Williams (Richmond), D Young (Cardiff), G Llewellyn (Harlequins), M Voyle (Llanelli), R Appleyard (Swansea), S Quinnell (Richmond), M Williams (Pontypridd). Replacements: K Morgan (Pontypridd), P John (Pontypridd), N Thomas (Bath), C Stephens (Bridgend), L Mustoe (Cardiff), J M Humphreys (Cardiff).

ITALY: C Pilat (Benetton); P Vaccari (Carbisano), C Stoica (Narbonne), L Martin (Padova), Marcello Cuttitta (Milan); D Dominguez (Stade Francais), A Tronco (Benetton); Massimo Cuttitta (Harlequins), C Orlandi (Milan), A Castellani (L'Aquila), G Croci (Milan), V Cristofoletto (Benetton), M Geovanelli (Narbonne, capt), A Sgorlon (Benetton), J Gardner (Benetton). Replacements: B Gowan (Benetton), A Scanavacca (Rovigo), G Guidi (L'Quila), O Arancio (Toulon), S Stocco (Padova), A Moretti (Padova), G de Carli (Roma).

Referee: S Lander (England)

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