Alun-Wyn Jones to captain Wales in 6N opener
CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Alun-Wyn Jones will captain Wales in the defending champion’s Six Nations opener against Italy on Saturday.
Jones takes over the captain’s duties from Sam Warburton, who will be on the replacements’ bench as he returns from two months out with a shoulder injury.
Rhys Priestland has edged out Dan Biggar at flyhalf, Jamie Roberts returns in midfield after missing the autumn tests, Paul James replaces injured prop Gethin Jenkins and Luke Charteris fills the second-row vacancy left by suspended forward Ian Evans.
Evans will miss the entire Six Nations campaign after receiving a 12-match ban for stamping.
Wales can complete a hat trick of Six Nations titles by March.
“We started slowly last year and know we need to be ready from the off,” coach Warren Gatland said. “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.”
Team: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Scott Williams, Jamie Roberts, George North, Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips, Paul James, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Luke Charteris, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Ken Owens, Ryan Bevington, Rhodri Jones, Andrew Coombs, Sam Warburton, Rhys Webb, James Hook, Liam Williams.