Wales to hand Rhys Webb his first Test start for THREE years after dropping Louis Rees-Zammit as Warren Gatland makes sweeping changes for Six Nations wooden spoon clash with Italy
- Wales will travel to the Stadio Olimpico to take on Italy in the Six Nations
- Both sides have lost all three of their championship games so far in 2023
- Warren Gatland has made a series of changes to try and find a winning formula
Wales head coach Warren Gatland has recalled Rhys Webb for his first Test start in three years and dropped Louis Rees-Zammit for Saturday’s Six Nations wooden spoon decider with Italy.
As predicted, Gatland has made sweeping changes to his side for the fourth straight game with Liam Williams also coming into the back division.
But it is the selection of Webb at scrum-half over Tomos Williams and Rees-Zammit’s move to the bench which are the headline selections from Gatland’s latest team announcement.
Wales have lost all three of their Six Nations games to date in 2023, suffering losses to Ireland, Scotland and England. Gatland is still searching for a winning formula.
Like Wales, Italy have also lost all three of their Championship games to date. Gatland’s side must succeed in Rome to avoid finishing winless in the Six Nations for the first time since 2003.
Wales boss Warren Gatland (left) will hand a first Test start in three years to Rhys Webb
Wales have lost all three of their Six Nations games so far including at home to England (above)
In total, Gatland has made six changes to the starting team which was beaten by England in Cardiff in round three.
‘We feel that having watched Italy and how they’ll tend to play from everywhere, including their own 22, getting guys on the ball is going to be pretty important,’ Gatland said.
‘Rhys gets an opportunity at nine having been training well. He’s been great in the squad. He brings that experience and a voice to that nine position.
‘Liam comes in at full-back. We did discuss whether we put Louis to full-back and how that would have looked. But he still hasn’t played a lot of rugby in terms of coming back from a relatively long injury with his ankle and we just felt with the way the game’s going to be and the pace of the game, that him coming off the bench and the impact he can have could be pretty important.
WALES TEAM VS ITALY
L Williams; Adams, Grady, Hawkins, Dyer; O Williams, Webb; Jones, Owens (capt), Francis, Beard, Jenkins, Morgan, Tipuric, Faletau
Replacements: Baldwin, Thomas, Lewis, Davies, Reffell, T Williams, North, Rees-Zammit
‘We’ve been disappointed with the results so far and for me it’s hard to take as it’s the first time I’ve lost three games in the Six Nations with Wales.
‘We’ve had a lot of things going on off the field as well but there are no excuses.’
For their latest game at the Stadio Olimpico, Wales will have Liam Williams back at full-back with Josh Adams and Rio Dyer – who replaces Rees-Zammit – completing the back three.
Owen Williams and Webb – whose last Test start came in 2020 – are the halfback pairing while rookie centres Joe Hawkins and Mason Grady continue in midfield.
In the pack, there is no place for Wales icon Alun Wyn Jones with Dafydd Jenkins and Adam Beard the lock pairing. The front row is made up of Wyn Jones, captain Ken Owens and Tomas Francis.
Jac Morgan is another player recalled in the back-row alongside Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau.
The Wales bench is made up of Scott Baldwin, Gareth Thomas, Dillon Lewis, Rhys Davies, Tommy Reffell, Tomos Williams, George North and Rees-Zammit.
Dan Biggar misses out altogether again.
Gatland has dropped Louis Rees-Zammit from his team ahead of the clash in Rome
Italy have also endured a poor campaign having also lost all of their three Tests to date
Italy will be without star full-back Ange Capuozzo this weekend after he was ruled out of the last two rounds of the Six Nations with a shoulder injury.
The absence of the livewire running threat Capuozzo hinders Italy’s attacking game significantly but they have shown real signs of progress since last autumn and will be a stern challenge for Wales.
Gatland added: ‘The message to the players has been we have to be smart in terms of the way we play but we’ve also got to be brave and make sure that when the opportunities are on, we shift the ball.
‘We have to keep scanning and looking at options and if there’s a chance to move the ball then be brave and do that.’
Share or comment on this article: