Warburton riding pine for Wales

Tue, 19 Feb 2013 13:39
Large sam warburton and rob howle Large sam warburton wales dejecte

Wales' Sam Warburton will have to make do with a place on the bench after interim head coach Rob Howley confirmed his replacements for Saturday's Six Nations clash against Italy.

Wales' Sam Warburton will have to make do with a place on the bench after interim head coach Rob Howley confirmed his replacements for Saturday's Six Nations clash against Italy.

Howley took the unusual step of naming his starting side for the game at Rome's Olympic Stadium more than a week in advance when he announced he would field the same XV that took the field for the 16-6 victory over France in Paris - a win that ended a run of eight straight Test defeats for Wales.

Warburton, Wales' captain at the 2011 World Cup and their skipper during last season's Six Nations Grand Slam campaign, missed the Stade de France fixture because of a shoulder injury.

Justin Tipuric filled Warburton's openside flank role, with the captaincy reverting to former skipper and fellow loose forward Ryan Jones.

Such was the performance of the two players in Paris that former Wales scrumhalf Howley, in charge while Warren Gatland is seconded to the British and Irish Lions for their tour of Australia starting in June, felt no need to change a winning side.

Warburton has been joined on the bench by fit-again lock Alun-Wyn Jones, who hasn't played for Wales since suffering a shoulder injury during November's defeat by Argentina at the Millennium Stadium.

However, Jones - who subsequently underwent surgery - has since proved his fitness with a couple of appearances for Welsh regional side the Ospreys.

Cardiff Blues lock Lou Reed and Scarlets flank Aaron Shingler dropped out of the match-day 23 to make way for Jones and Warburton, with Howley's experienced bench to face the Azzurri boasting a combined total of 264 caps.

Victory for Wales in Rome would keep them in contention for the Six Nations title ahead of next month's remaining fixtures against Scotland and England.

"We announced last week that we would reward the starting XV that beat France by keeping faith with the same line-up for this weekend's game," Howley said.

"The side is fit and raring to go and on the bench we have brought in Sam and Alun-Wyn who have both returned from injury which is a boost to the squad.

Victory for Wales in Rome would keep them in contention for the Six Nations title ahead of next month's remaining fixtures against Scotland and England.

Italy, however, caused the shock of the Championship so far when they beat pre-tournament favourites France 23-18 on the opening weekend in Rome.

Even though they suffered a 34-10 defeat against Scotland last time out in Edinburgh, Howley was taking nothing for granted against an Italy side who are set to be without inspirational captain Sergio Parisse after the loose forward was sent off for insulting the referee while playing for French club Stade Francais last weekend.

"In France the players showed real determination and resilience and we will need that again in Rome," Howley said.

"Italy have already showed so far in this campaign what they are capable of, so we know the challenge we will be facing on Saturday."

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ryan Jones (captain), 5 Ian Evans, 4 Andrew Coombs, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Alun-Wyn Jones, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Scott Williams.

Date: Saturday, February 23
Venue: Olympic Stadium, Rome
Kick-off: 15.30 (14.30 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Pascal Gauzere (France)
TMO: Geoff Warren (England)

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