Six Nations 2014: Sam Warburton named on the bench as Alun Wyn Jones leads Wales against Italy

Head coach Warren Gatland has chosen to name his regular captain among the replacements as he continues his comeback from a shoulder injury

Ospreys lock Alun Wyn Jones will captain Wales in their RBS 6 Nations opener against Italy next Saturday.

Jones takes over from Sam Warburton, who will begin his comeback after two months out with a shoulder injury on the replacements' bench.

Elsewhere, Rhys Priestland has edged out Dan Biggar for fly-half duties, Jamie Roberts returns in midfield after missing this season's autumn Tests, Paul James replaces injured prop Gethin Jenkins and Luke Charteris fills the second-row vacancy left by suspended Ospreys forward Ian Evans.

It had been widely expected that Wales coach Warren Gatland would look to ease Warburton back, rather than start him against Italy.

The Cardiff Blues flanker has not played since Wales' autumn series finale against Australia on November 30.

And in Jones, who skippered the British and Irish Lions to a Test series-clinching victory over the Wallabies in Sydney last summer, Wales have a highly-capable deputy.

Leadership duties might have fallen to Jenkins - Wales captain in the record 30-3 win against England last season - but he is sidelined due to a knee problem, so James starts and Ryan Bevington and Rhodri Jones provide bench cover.

Although Scarlets playmaker Priestland returns at fly-half, there is no place in the match-day 23 for Biggar, with James Hook, Rhys Webb and Liam Williams named as back division replacements.

Charteris' return, meanwhile, comes as Evans reflects on a 12-week ban imposed following his sending- off for stamping during the Ospreys' Heineken Cup defeat against Leinster earlier this month.

Evans will miss the entire Six Nations campaign as he is not eligible to play again until April 21.

With Warburton on bench duty, Justin Tipuric starts at openside flanker and Racing Metro forward Dan Lydiate fills blindside duties alongside number eight Toby Faletau, And much will be expected of Wales' midfield partnership as fit-again Roberts teams up with in-form Scott Williams as the defending champions go into Six Nations battle minus injured Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies.

"We are looking for a good start," said Gatland, whose team are chasing an unprecedented Six Nations title hat-trick this season.

"We started slowly last year and know we need to be ready from the off.

"Italy started last year's tournament with a win over France, so they will be ready on Saturday and we need to start well and build confidence and momentum.

"It's a strong, experienced side, but there was a lot of discussion about the selection, which is a great position to be in as a coach.

"We've almost everyone fit for selection, which is pretty rare.

"Alun Wyn will lead the side with Sam starting on the bench, and he has come through training well."

It later emerged that Warburton could end up starting the Italy clash after Lydiate flew back to Paris on Tuesday morning.

Lydiate's partner is due to have a child, and the former Newport Gwent Dragons forward has returned to be with her.

The Wales squad has a day off on Wednesday, and it is not known at this stage whether or not Lydiate will take part on Saturday.

If he was to be unavailable, then the likelihood is that Warburton would be promoted off the bench and start in the number six shirt.

 

PA

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before