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Warburton to start for Wales

2nd February 2017

Sam Warburton has been named in the Wales team for the RBS 6 Nations opener against Italy on Sunday.

The Cardiff Blues ace goes into the Championship without the responsibility of the captaincy for the first time since 2012.

But he has held onto his starting spot as Rob Howley’s side kick-off their campaign at Stadio Olympico.

There is just one change in the backline from the side that beat the Springboks, with Webb returning from injury to start at scrum-half, partnering Dan Biggar at half-back.  

Scarlets duo Scott Williams and Jonathan Davies make up the midfield with George North, who scored a hat-trick for Wales on his last outing in Rome and Liam Williams occupying the wing positions with Leigh Halfpenny at full-back.

Wales’ match-day squad features four players seeking their first taste of Six Nations action - prop Nicky Smith who starts at loose-head along with replacements Cory Hill, James King and Sam Davies.

Smith is joined in the front-row by Scarlets pair Lee and Ken Owens, with their regional team-mate Ball packing down alongside captain Jones in second-row.

The back-row sees Ross Moriarty at No.8 with Justin Tipuric and Warburton at openside and blindside flanker respectively.

“I’m delighted to name an experienced team for the game against Italy and to welcome back five players who missed out on the opportunity against South Africa in the autumn,” said Wales Head Coach Rob Howley

“The Six Nations is a special tournament and we are looking forward to being highly competitive. We feel this is the best side selected to start the campaign, we want to get off to a good start and we feel experience will be vital in that.

“There has been a lot of energy and enthusiasm over the past two weeks and we are excited going into Sunday.

“We know we are going to Rome to face a hugely motivated and very competitive Italian side.”

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; George North, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Liam Williams; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Nicky Smith, Ken Owens, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty.

Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Rob Evans, Tomas Francis, Cory Hill, James King, Gareth Davies, Sam Davies, Jamie Roberts.