Wales ring changes for Italy game

Warren Gatland plays the rotation card as he chases a Grand Slam.

    Stephen Jones returns to the Wales side
    [GALLO/GETTY] 
    Wales coach Warren Gatland has rested his halfbacks and selected a new front row for his side's clash with Italy as he chases a Grand Slam in his first Six Nations season.

    After guiding the Welsh to victories over England and Scotland, Gatland has opted to rotate his players in naming the team 11 days ahead of the February 23 match at the Millennium Stadium.

    He recalled the experienced duo of flyhalf Stephen Jones and scrumhalf Dwayne Peel, who have a combined 127 games.

    James Hook and Michael Phillips drop to the bench and winger Mark Jones returns for Jamie Roberts.

    In the pack, props Gethin Jenkins and Rhys Thomas will be either side of hooker Matthew Rees.

    "We've made six changes, but are in the enviable position of being able to do so without weakening our lineup," said Gatland, who has recalled players with a combined 239 caps.

    "Players have put their hands up with performances from the bench, and in Stephen, Dwayne, Mark and Gethin we are a bringing a wealth of experience and talent into the side."

    Welsh revival

    Wales has been in a slump since its Grand Slam triumph three years ago and faces an Italian lineup which narrowly lost to Ireland (16-11) and England (23-19).

    "Italy are tough opposition and have been progressing well under a new coach in Nick Mallett," Gatland said.

    "They gave England a scare last week and they always rise to the occasion and pick up a result somewhere in the Six Nations, and we need to be on our guard."

    Wales: Lee Byrne, Mark Jones, Tom Shanklin, Gavin Henson, Shane Williams, Stephen Jones, Dwayne Peel; Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Rhys Thomas, Ian Gough, Ian Evans, Jonathan Thomas, Martyn Williams, Ryan Jones (captain).

    Replacements: Huw Bennett, Duncan Jones, Deiniol Jones, Gareth Delve, Michael Phillips, James Hook, Sonny Parker.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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