Teenager Tom Prydie has been tipped as a possible "superstar" as he prepares to make Welsh international rugby history. Prydie, at 18 years and 25 days, will become the 1,074th Wales Test player and youngest of all time when he lines up against Six Nations opponents Italy in Cardiff on Saturday.
His shock selection, after just two appearances for the Ospreys, also sees him eclipse the England centre Mathew Tait as the youngest Six Nations participant. But Prydie's fellow Wales wing Shane Williams has no doubt a rare talent has been unearthed.
"He's a young lad who has got all the talent to be a great player, a superstar even," said Williams, who also features in a team showing five changes from the side beaten 27-12 by Triple Crown-chasing Ireland last weekend. "I am delighted he is having his chance on Saturday. He has trained very well with the squad and I have no doubt he will go out and have a great game. You have only got to watch him – he is so full of confidence, it's scary. I wish I was half as confident as him at that age.
"It's just a dream come true to be announced in the team," Prydie said. "I couldn't really believe it, I was shaking. All the boys came up with handshakes, patted me on the back and were really supportive."
Prydie's call-up in place of Leigh Halfpenny comes just six years after he started playing rugby. When he runs out at the Millennium Stadium he will break the Welsh age record of 18 years and 50 days set by the Cardiff wing Norman Biggs in 1888.
The Wales coach, Warren Gatland, will welcome back three fit-again Lions – scrum-half Mike Phillips, prop Gethin Jenkins and captain Ryan Jones – against Italy, and hand Cardiff flanker Sam Warburton his first Six Nations start in place of Martyn Williams. Richie Rees, Paul James and Gareth Delve also drop out of the team.
Wales team to play Italy in Cardiff on Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm): L Byrne; T Prydie, J Hook (all Ospreys), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jones (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), L Charteris (Newport-Gwent Dragons), J Thomas (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys, capt).
Replacements: H Bennett, P James, I Gough (all Ospreys), G Delve (Gloucester), D Peel (Sale Sharks), A Bishop (Ospreys), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues).