Wales ponder changes for Italy clash

Rhys Priestland (left) and Rhys Webb

Rhys Priestland (second left) and Rhys Webb (right) both came on as replacements in Wales’ Six Nations loss against England

Wales are considering making changes to their team for their final Six Nations match against Italy on Saturday.

Wales captain Sam Warburton is likely to be ruled out with a head injury, but prop Gethin Jenkins is back in training after missing the defeat by England with a calf problem.

Scrum-half Rhys Webb, fly-half Rhys Priestland and hooker Ken Owens impressed from the bench at Twickenham.

“I think the bench deserve [a chance],” said assistant coach Rob Howley.

“Obviously when they’ve come on there’s certainly been a change in the momentum of the game and they’ve made a huge impact.

“As coaches we’ll sit down and have that selection [discussion]. It’s a big game on Saturday and we respect Italy, so we’ll be picking what [head coach] Warren Gatland feels is our best side for the game.”

The team announcement is due on Tuesday.


Ken Owens has won 38 caps for Wales since making his debut in 2011

Although Jenkins is back, fellow prop Tomas Francis could be suspended as he faces a disciplinary hearing this week.

The Exeter front-rower’s fingers appeared to touch the eye area of England’s Dan Cole during Wales’ defeat at Twickenham.

That could mean Samson Lee and Rob Evans retain their places as the starting props, with either Owens or Scott Baldwin packing down between them at hooker.

Ospreys open-side Justin Tipuric is the likeliest replacement for Warburton in the back row, and there could be changes among the backs.

Webb’s impact from the bench at Twickenham could mean the scrum-half makes his first start for Wales since suffering a serious foot injury in a World Cup warm-up match against Italy in September.

Wing Alex Cuthbert has failed to score in his last nine matches for Wales, his longest spell without an international try since he made his Test debut in 2011.

Should the Cardiff Blues player lose his place, regional team-mate Tom James and Newport Gwent Dragons back Hallam Amos could be in contention to start.


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