Wales Faletau gets captain's armband
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Taulupe Faletau will lead Wales for the first time as he returns to the starting line-up as captain for Sunday’s Six Nations clash against Italy in Cardiff.
The 70-times capped No.8 returns from injury to take the captain’s armband and will line-up in a new look backrow for Wales with fellow British & Irish Lion Justin Tipuric wearing six with Scarlets flank James Davies making his international debut at openside.
Experienced Bradley Davies, who has featured in all three opening Six Nations encounters for Wales from the bench, starts alongside Cory Hill in the second-row.
Nicky Smith and Tomas Francis join Elliot Dee in the front-row, the Dragons hooker making his first start for his country.
Gareth Davies partners Gareth Anscombe at half-back with Owen Watkin coming in for his first Six Nations start to partner Hadleigh Parkes in the midfield.
Liam Williams moves to fullback as George North comes into the starting XV to form a back-three alongside Steff Evans.
"It is a great opportunity for Taulupe, 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," said Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland.
"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, 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,"
Scarlets trio Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Samson Lee provide the front-row cover with Cardiff Blues duo Seb Davies and Ellis Jenkins completing the forward contingent on the bench.
Scarlets’ Aled Davies, Rhys Patchell and Leigh Halfpenny provide the back-line cover.
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau (captain), 7 James Davies, 6 Justin Tipuric, 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Cory Hill, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Leigh Halfpenny
Date: Sunday, March 11
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 15.00 (15.00 GMT, 16.00 Italy time)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gaüzère (France), Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)