Wales switch James Hook to centre

James Hook will start in his third different position of this year's RBS 6 Nations Championship when Wales face Italy on Saturday.

Hook, full-back against England and then fly-half when Wales beat Scotland 10 days ago, moves to centre as replacement for the injured Jonathan Davies.



Hook wins his 50th cap, lining up alongside Jamie Roberts in midfield, while Stephen Jones returns at fly-half, making a 98th Test match appearance.



Wales coach Warren Gatland has otherwise retained the team on duty at Murrayfield, although fit-again Cardiff Blues wing Leigh Halfpenny gains a place among the substitutes.



Davies has not recovered from a hamstring injury suffered during the Scotland game, a match when Hook ran proceedings for Wales as they built a sizeable early lead before running out 24-6 victors.



It was Wales' first success in nine Tests, but the versatile Hook was always going to be Gatland's strongest centre option once Davies lost his fitness race.



Hook will feature at outside centre, which coupled with Jones' return are the only changes, a situation in stark contrast to 2009 at Stadio Flaminio when a team showing showing nine alterations ground out an uninspiring 20-15 success.



"We have selected the strongest possible side, showing the utmost respect to Italy," said head coach Gatland.



"We know only too well what tough opponents they are in Rome and so we have picked the strongest team available to us."



Wales attack coach Rob Howley is backing the forwards to continue their impressive form in the Rome match.



Howley said: "This is very much a vote of confidence for the forwards, they have been going extremely well as a unit and we are looking for more of the same against Italy.



"Our hand has been forced in the back line, Jonathan is simply not ready this weekend after struggling with his hamstring since the Scotland game.



"The obvious decision then is to move James (Hook) into the centre where he has done well in partnership with Jamie (Roberts).



"And bringing Stephen (Jones) in at fly-half is a great luxury to have. He was hurting after the England game, he will be looking forward to getting back out there and we are very happy to have that option available to us.



"James wins his 50th cap and we all know what a valuable player he is to this team and what a great servant he has been to Welsh rugby already at just 26 years of age."



Howley expects Wales to face strong resistance from the Italians, who were drubbed 59-13 by England at Twickenham in their last outing, having almost beaten Ireland in their opening match.



"Italy are a different animal at home, they showed that against Ireland," said Howley.



"Since the inception of Italy as a part of the Six Nations they have continued to improve year on year and they are always capable of turning you over.



"We are under no illusion as to how tough it is going to be for us out there on Saturday, history shows us that it is going to be a very hard day at the office, but we have picked a side to go out there and win."



Wales team for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations match against Italy in Rome:

LL Byrne (Ospreys); M Stoddart (Scarlets), J Hook (Ospreys), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys); P James (Ospreys), M Rees (Scarlets, capt), C Mitchell (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), A-W Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys).



Replacements: R Hibbard (Ospreys), J Yapp (Cardiff Blues), J Thomas (Ospreys), J Turnbull (Scarlets), T Knoyle (Scarlets), R Priestland (Scarlets), L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
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

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine