Alun-Wyn Jones to lead Wales

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The Independent Online

Wales lock Alun-Wyn Jones will captain his country for the first time in next week's RBS 6 Nations clash against Italy.

The Ospreys second row leads a much-changed line-up from the side beaten 21-16 by France in Paris last Friday night.

The only players still involved from that defeat are Jones, full-back Lee Byrne, wing Shane Williams and number eight Andy Powell, while Jamie Roberts moves from inside to outside centre.

Warren Gatland’s first choice captain Ryan Jones is on the bench, along with fellow Grand Slam stars from last season in Stephen Jones, Mike Phillips and Gethin Jenkins.

Players given a week’s total rest from the Rome clash include prop Adam Jones, lock Ian Gough and flanker Martyn Williams.

Ospreys centre Gavin Henson, who came off the bench in Paris, is among a raft of players promoted to the starting line-up.

Henson, making his first Test match start since last season's Grand Slam-clinching victory over France, replaces Tom Shanklin, with Roberts switching midfield roles.

It is Wales head coach Warren Gatland's third attempt this season to pair Henson and Roberts.

Gatland's hopes were dashed against South Africa during the autumn, and then for Wales' opening Six Nations clash with Scotland because Henson pulled out injured both times.

Wing Mark Jones starts ahead of Leigh Halfpenny and there are also places in the starting team for fly-half James Hook, scrum-half Dwayne Peel, hooker Huw Bennett, props John Yapp and Rhys Thomas, lock Luke Charteris, plus flankers Jonathan Thomas and Dafydd Jones.

Peel, who could be in Guinness Premiership action for Sale against Newcastle on Sunday, was originally left out of Gatland's current Six Nations squad, but recalled when Cooper required knee surgery.

Hook, meanwhile, replaces Stephen Jones, with Peel taking over from Phillips and Bennett preferred to Matthew Rees. Newport Gwent Dragons forwards Rhys Thomas and Charteris replace Adam Jones and Gough, respectively.

Having seen hoped of a repeat Grand Slam dashed in Paris, Wales need to pile on the points against Nick Mallett’s men to put themselves in with a chance of lifting the championship.

Gatland said: "We have made a series of changes. With no disrespect to Italy, if we are to consistently be one of the top four or five teams in the world we need to back the depth in our squad.

"We have made changes, but there are arguments to say we are stronger in certain positions.

"If I was playing against Italy I would be excited about both the opportunity which presents itself and, looking around me, about the team which has been selected.

"We have come a long way in the last 12 months and achieved a fantastic amount, but the best teams in the world develop depth of experience in their squad and back themselves.

"The choice of Alun-Wyn as captain next week is an example of us doing exactly that and also looking to the future."


L Byrne (Ospreys); M Jones (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), G Henson (Ospreys), S Williams (Ospreys); J Hook (Ospreys), D Peel (Sale Sharks); J Yapp (Cardiff Blues), H Bennett (Ospreys), R Thomas (Newport Gwent Dragons), L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), A-W Jones (Ospreys, capt), J Thomas (Ospreys), D Jones (Scarlets), A Powell (Cardiff Blues).

Replacements: M Rees (Scarlets), G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys), M Phillips (Ospreys), S Jones (Scarlets), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues).