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

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week