What we learned from the Wales team to face Italy

Wales host Italy at Principality Stadium on Sunday in their Round Four clash, with ten changes made from the team that was defeated by Ireland last time out.

Wales host Italy at Principality Stadium on Sunday in their Round Four clash, with ten changes made from the team that was defeated by Ireland last time out.

Head coach Warren Gatland has kept Liam Williams, Steff Evans, Hadleigh Parkes, Gareth Davies and Cory Hill in, but it’s all change elsewhere.

Here, we take a look at Gatland’s selections and his comments about the squad.

Click here for the complete 2018 NatWest 6 Nations fixture list


One of the most significant changes sees regular captain Alun Wyn Jones rested from the matchday 23 and returning No.8 Taulupe Faletau installed as skipper.

Gatland has been able to call upon plenty more experience in the shape of lock Bradley Davies, flanker Justin Tipuric and wing George North.

James Davies wins his first cap at openside, Gareth Anscombe is at fly-half and there’s an all-new front row made up by hooker Elliot Dee and props Nicky Smith.

The final change sees Ospreys centre Owen Watkin making his first Championship start, at outside centre, with Gatland talking of his excitement at the changes.

“It is a great opportunity for Taulupe,” said Gatland. “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.

“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.”


With Anscombe in line to partner Gareth Davies in the half-backs we are all set to see Wales’ third starting fly-half of the Championship so far.

Rhys Patchell started against both Scotland and England but was replaced by Dan Biggar against Ireland, with Gatland now questioning the wisdom of that decision.

“Gareth (Anscombe) has been sharp when he has come off the bench and has given us real attacking flair,” Gatland added. “He deserves a chance.

“I went to him (Anscombe) before the selection of the last game (against Ireland), and I said to him ‘look, I will be 100 per cent honest with you, I don’t know if we have made the right call at No.10’.

“We decided to go with Dan (Biggar). Gareth deserves a chance of an opportunity.”


Whilst it seemed that 12 months ago many Welsh fans were crying out for more options in the back three – Liam Williams, North and Evans have been selected to face Italy in a display of Welsh depth in this area.

So in far in the Championship we have also seen the likes of talented players Leigh Halfpenny and Josh Adams, highlighting the options Gatland now has.

“There is some real competition in the back three that we haven’t always had,” said the head coach.

“We have been pleased with the impact George (North) has made coming off the bench and he gets a chance to start now.

“We are quite excited by the attacking ability we have got in that back three.

“George is pretty aware that there’s some real competition there. Hopefully he come in and makes a real impact on Sunday.

“It’s nice to get someone with that pace and power back on the field and hopefully playing with some confidence.”