Wales shuffle backs for Italy test

James Hook moves to centre

James Hook moves to centre

The injury of the Scarlets’ centre Jonathan Davies has led to the return of his regions teammate in the sly-half position for Wales’ third match of the 6 Nations against an Italy side yet to taste victory in this season’s championships.


Davies’ injury also sees James Hook, who displaced Jones in the number ten shirt two weeks ago against Scotland, move across to outside centre as the national team manager, Warren Gatland, looks to win his second match in a row following a 24-6 win away against Scotland.


Hook will rejuvenate his partnership with Cardiff Blues’ centre Jamie Roberts, who is named at inside centre, despite a commanding performance in the number ten position and with the boot at Murrayfield.  That allows Jones to return to win his 98th Wales cap in the red of Wales despite it appearing as though his international career may be winding down just two weeks previous.


The remainder of the starting line-up remains the same as Lee Byrne starts his second match at fullback after his return from injury, which means Morgan Stoddart, his rival for the 15 shirt, starts on the wing for the third match in succession having crossed the line against the Millennium Stadium defeat to England on the opening fixture of the 2011 tournament.


Italy have also made a number of changes for the match-up following their humiliating 59-13 loss to England in their previous test. Kris Burton, the Australian born back, returns at fly-half having been dropped in place of Luciano Orquera at Twickenham two weeks ago. Italy looked numb in attack against England where they had been dangerous throughout just a week before as they lost out narrowly to Ireland, and it appears Orquera has paid the price.


Forwards Santiago Dellape and Robert Barbier also come in, in place of Carlo Del Fava and Valerio Bernabo respectively, for one the best forward packs in world rugby as the Azzurri look to get their first win under their belts.


Italy have not beaten Wales since 2007 when they recorded a memorable 23-20 victory at the Stadio Flaminio as they finished in fourth place, winning two matches in total, to finish above Wales in fifth and Scotland in last place.


The next year Italy took home the wooden spoon as Wales won the Grand Slam, while in 2009 and 2010 Italy came last and Wales fourth on both occasions.


Wales face Italy at the Stadio Flaminio on Saturday at 14:30.


Italy: Luke McLean; Andrea Masi, Gonzalo Canale, Alberto Sgarbi, Mirco Bergamasco; Kristopher Burton, Fabio Semenzato; Salvatore Perugini, Leonardo Ghiradlini, Martin Castrogiovanni, Santiago Dellape, Quintin Geldenhuys, Alessandro Zanni, Robert Barbieri, Sergio Parisse.
Replacements: Carlo Festuccia, Andrea Lo Cicero, Valerio Bernabo, Manoa Vosawai, Pablo Canavosio, Luciano Orquera, Tommaso Benvenuti.


Wales: Lee Byrne; Morgan Stoddart, James Hook, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams; Stephen Jones, Mike Phillips; Paul James, Matthew Rees, Craig Mitchell, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton, Ryan Jones.
Replacements: Richard Hibbard, John Yapp, Jonathan Thomas, Josh Turnbull, Tavis Knoyle, Rhys Priestland, Leigh Halfpenny.

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