Reaction: Davies honoured as skipper as Gatland rings the changes

Warren Gatland had been clear from the outset of this Championship that he wanted to give all of his players a chance over the first two games.

Warren Gatland had been clear from the outset of this Championship that he wanted to give all of his players a chance over the first two games.

And the Wales head coach, in his final Guinness Six Nations at the helm, has been as good as his word with the team he has picked to take on Italy in Rome on Saturday.

Ten changes in total are made to the starting XV that came back from the dead to down France in Paris on the opening night of the Championship.

But the first talking point is undoubtedly the choice to appoint British & Irish Lions centre Davies as captain.


Davies will win his 70th cap on Saturday for his country and become Wales’ 137th captain as well.

The 30-year-old has cemented himself in the history books already as one of his country’s best ever centres.

A two-time British & Irish Lion, Davies and Alun Wyn Jones are the only men to have started the last six Lions Tests in a row.

Man of the series in New Zealand, Davies is a class act on and off the field and has earned his reward.

“He’s obviously very honoured to accept the captaincy. He’s been around for a number of years,” said Gatland.

“Looking at that group of players, he seemed the obvious choice and he deserves the accolade.

“It’s recognition of what he’s already achieved in the game.”


Davies is one of only five players to keep their spots in the starting XV along with Josh Adams and Liam Williams in the backs and Josh Navidi and Adam Beard in the forwards.

That means first-ever Guinness Six Nations starts for Thomas Young and Aaron Wainwright in the back row and Jonah Holmes on the wing.

An all-new front row of Nicky Smith, Elliot Dee and Samson Lee are joined by the fit-again Jake Ball and Beard in the front five.

Dan Biggar and Aled Davies are the half-backs while the new skipper is joined by Owen Watkin in midfield.

And with stalwarts like Ken Owens, Hadleigh Parkes and Justin Tipuric not even in the matchday 23, Gatland has taken a calculated risk.

“We spoke about giving everyone an opportunity,” he added.

“We’re replicating what we might have later in the year.

“There are a couple of things that may potentially happen in the World Cup with Cory Hill getting a cut on the knee and Tipuric getting a back strain.

“George North has a shoulder problem from last week so hasn’t had a big role in training.

“We wanted to include the eight players that weren’t involved last week.”


Wales have beaten Italy 12 times in a row, a run that stretches back to the 2007 Championship.

And Gatland will be hoping it will not be unlucky 13 on Saturday, as the head coach refuses to look any further ahead with England in Round Three looming large.

“We haven’t spoken at all about England,” he said.

“This whole focus has been on France and knowing if we won there it would tee us up for a good Guinness Six Nations.

“Our whole focus this week has been performing against Italy.

“We’ve spoken about Italy. They looked dangerous in the last part of the Scotland game.

“It just shows that they can be dangerous with ball in hand and I think they’ll play.

“We’ve been in situations in Rome when games have been close and tight.

“We’ve got to stay in the arm wrestle against these guys and create chances.”