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Page last updated at 13:00 GMT, Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Jonathan Davies injury forces James Hook centre switch

2011 Six Nations Championship - Italy v Wales
Venue: Stadio Flaminio, Rome Date: Sat, 26 February Kick-off: 1430 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One and online from 1400; listen on BBC Radio 5 Live, Radio Wales and Radio Cymru; live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles


James Hook and Jamie Roberts
James Hook and Jamie Roberts will be Wales centre partners against Italy in Rome

Injury has forced Wales coach Warren Gatland into one starting XV change for their Six Nations clash against Italy at Stadio Flaminio on Saturday.

Jonathan Davies' hamstring strain means James Hook moves from fly-half to centre to win his 50th cap and Stephen Jones is back for his 98th cap at 10.

Shane Williams wins his 78th cap on his 34 birthday in Rome and Leigh Halfpenny is on the bench after an ankle injury.

But there are no pack changes following Wales' 26-4 win over Scotland.

Gatland's side began the tournament with a 26-19 defeat by England at the Millennium Stadium and bounced back with the triumph at Murrayfield.

Davies suffered his hamstring strain in that win in which his kick led to wing Williams winning the race for the wing's second try.

Williams' first touchdown came after Hook broke through during early pressure on his return to the jersey he covets.

Rick O'Shea checks out Italy

But with Tom Shanklin (knee injury), Osprey Andrew Bishop (ankle) and Gavin Henson yet to have a run of fitness and form at either Saracens or new club Toulon, Wales' options at centre to partner Jamie Roberts were limited.

Jones replaced Hook in the last quarter at Murrayfield and he joins Six Nations reject Martyn Williams as the second-most capped players in Wales' history behind 100-cap rugby league Crusader Gareth Thomas.

They go to Rome with Gatland praising his pack's recent work in the absence of British and Irish Lions props Gethin Jenkins (toe) and Adam Jones (elbow).

Jenkins' stand-in Paul James and Jones' replacement Craig Mitchell limped off at Murrayfield, but are over their "bumps and bruises".

In 2009, Gatland's second Six Nations in charge, he made numerous changes in a bid to improve the side's strength in depth.

However, that plan backfired as Wales struggled to a 20-15 win - a bigger margin of victory would have meant Wales finishing second in the table that season. Instead, they finished fourth.

This is very much a vote of confidence for the forwards, they have been going extremely well as a unit

Wales attack coach Robert Howley

Gatland has resisted any temptation to repeat that experiment and is also mindful of Italy coming within a whisker of beating Ireland for the first time in this season's championship in Rome, with a late Ronan O'Gara drop-goal saving the visitors in a 13-11 win.

Although the wheels came off for the Azzurri in their next match with a 59-13 hammering by England at Twickenham, Wales also have memories of losing twice in Rome - in 2003 and 2007.

Gatland said: "We have selected the strongest possible side, showing the utmost respect to Italy.

"We know only too well what tough opponents they are in Rome and so we have picked the strongest team available to us."

Ex-skipper Ryan Jones remains at number eight following his showing at Murrayfield, where he started in the wake of the shoulder injury that forced Andy Powell off against England.

Wales attack coach Robert Howley said: "This is very much a vote of confidence for the forwards, they have been going extremely well as a unit and we are looking for more of the same against Italy.

"Our hand has been forced in the back line. Jonathan is simply not ready this weekend after struggling with his hamstring since the Scotland game.

"Italy are a different animal at home, they showed that against Ireland."


Wales: Lee Byrne (Ospreys); Morgan Stoddart (Scarlets), James Hook (Ospreys), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Shane Williams (Ospreys); Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Ospreys); Paul James (Ospreys), Matthew Rees (Scarlets, capt), Craig Mitchell (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Blues), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), Sam Warburton (Blues), Ryan Jones (Ospreys).
Replacements: Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), John Yapp (Blues), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Blues).

Wales squad:

Forwards: Paul James (Ospreys), John Yapp (Blues), Craig Mitchell (Ospreys), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Scott Andrews (Blues), Matthew Rees (Scarlets, capt), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Blues), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Blues), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Andy Powell (Wasps), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), Rob McCusker (Scarlets), Dan Lydiate (Dragons).

Backs: Mike Phillips (Ospreys), Dwayne Peel (Sale), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), James Hook (Ospreys), Jamie Roberts (Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Shane Williams (Ospreys), Morgan Stoddart (Scarlets), Lee Byrne (Ospreys), Leigh Halfpenny (Blues).



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see also
Italy 16-24 Wales
26 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Rugby star hurt in city 'assault'
22 Feb 11 |  South East Wales
Wales wary of Italy, says Jenkins
22 Feb 11 |  Welsh
Wales must use Williams - Jenkins
17 Feb 11 |  Welsh
Victory lifted pressure - Roberts
14 Feb 11 |  Welsh
Wales 'better in England defeat'
13 Feb 11 |  Welsh
Rees praises tough Wales defence
13 Feb 11 |  Welsh
Robinson rues Scottish mistakes
12 Feb 11 |  Scottish
Scotland 6-24 Wales
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
England 59-13 Italy
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Wales 19-26 England
04 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Italy 11-13 Ireland
05 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales


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