Rugby Union: Howley appointed Wales captain

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Robert Howley will lead Wales into this season's Five Nations campaign. The scrum-half, who returned home early from the Lions tour to South Africa with a shoulder injury, takes over the captaincy from Gwyn Jones, who was forced to retire after suffering a serious spinal injury last month.

Howley's first match as skipper is the friendly against Italy at Stradey Park on 7 February. The Wales team to face the Italians shows five changes from that defeated by New Zealand at Wembley in November, with Ieuan Evans and Arwel Thomas both returning.

Meanwhile, Ireland have made seven changes from the side beaten by Italy in Bologna last month for the Five Nations opener against Scotland on Saturday week.

WALES (v Italy, Llanelli, 7 February): 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, P John (both Pontypridd), N Thomas (Bath), C Stephens (Bridgend), L Mustoe (Cardiff), J Humphreys (Cardiff).