Six Nations 2018: Wales v Italy - Taulupe Faletau to captain Wales as James Davies makes debut

Taulupe Faletau
Taulupe Faletau

Taulupe Faletau will captain Wales for the first time in their NatWest 6 Nations clash with Italy in Cardiff on Sunday – as Scarlets flanker James Davies makes his Test debut.

Davies, younger brother of Wales centre Jonathan, is one of 10 changes made by Warren Gatland following their 37-27 defeat against Ireland 11 days ago.

Fit-again Bath number eight Faletau will lead the team out for the first time as he makes a first appearance in this season's Six Nations.

Match handicap (Wales -30pts): Wales 10/11 tie 20/1 Italy 10/11

Wales have lost their last two games to effectively fall out of Six Nations contention, leading to Gatland ringing the changes.

"It is a great opportunity for Taulupe,” said Gatland. “He is a world-class player, hugely experienced and this will be great for his development and we are looking forward to seeing those leadership qualities come through.

"We have made some changes, but we are bringing in a lot of quality and a lot of experience with the likes of Bradley Davies, Justin Tipuric, George North and Taulupe.

"Add into that James Davies, who gets his first cap, and Elliot Dee, who gets his first start - this is a great opportunity for them to play tournament rugby.

"It is challenging making changes, but we have picked a really exciting team, and Sunday is their chance."

North's selection comes four days on from him missing his club Northampton's Aviva Premiership game against Sale Sharks, after which interim Saints boss Alan Gaffney suggested the 25-year-old had not wanted to play for Saints.

North had been released by Wales as it was a Six Nations fallow week, but he did not feature for Northampton amid reports he had an arrangement with former Saints rugby director Jim Mallinder that he would not play club rugby on rest weekends.

Wales team to play Italy in Cardiff on Sunday.
L Williams (Saracens); G North (Northampton), O Watkin (Ospreys), H Parkes (Scarlets), S Evans (Scarlets); G Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), G Davies (Scarlets); N Smith (Ospreys), E Dee (Dragons), T Francis (Exeter), C Hill (Dragons), B Davies (Ospreys), J Tipuric (Ospreys), J Davies (Scarlets), T Faletau (Bath, capt).

Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets), R Evans (Scarlets), S Lee (Scarlets), S Davies (Cardiff Blues), E Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), A Davies (Scarlets), R Patchell (Scarlets), L Halfpenny (Scarlets).

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