Six Nations 2017: Rhys Webb returns as Wales make five changes for Italy game

Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar
Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar are Ospreys team-mates
Six Nations: Italy v Wales
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Date: Sunday, 5 February Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on S4C, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary

Wales have made five changes from the team that beat South Africa in November for Sunday's Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome.

Scrum-half Rhys Webb returns after injury, while former captain Sam Warburton is named on the blind-side flank by interim coach Rob Howley.

Props Nicky Smith and Samson Lee come in to the team, with Jake Ball in for the injured Luke Charteris at lock.

Bath number eight Taulupe Faletau has failed to recover from a knee injury.

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Scott Williams is preferred at centre to Jamie Roberts, who is on the bench, while Dan Biggar will partner Webb at half-back.

The Ospreys scrum-half missed the autumn Tests against Argentina, Japan and South Africa after injuring a knee against Australia on 5 November.

Lock Alun Wyn Jones leads the team for the first time since taking over from Warburton as skipper.

None of the uncapped players in the extended squad have made the match day 23, with interim coach Rob Howley saying it was important to start the tournament with a win.

In fact Howley's starting XV averages more than 45 caps a man.

"We've gone with a lot of experience with 10 out the XV who started against South Africa," he said.

"It's important to start well hence the selection you see.

"We've been there as coaches and some of the players have - 2009 comes to mind - when we made a number of changes and given opportunities but we just feel for the start of the campaign we want to start well.

"We believe the Six Nations is going to be about momentum and we wanted to pick a rather experienced team to start the tournament."

Meanwhile Italy coach, Conor O'Shea, has made five changes from the team that beat South Africa in November for the Wales clash.

There are no uncapped players in the Italian squad as captain Sergio Parisse returns to lead the side and win his 122nd Test cap.

Italy: Edoardo Padovani (Zebre); Giulio Bisegni (Zebre), Tommaso Benvenuti (Treviso), Luke McLean (Treviso), Giovanbattista Venditti (Zebre), Carlo Canna (Zebre), Edoardo Gori (Treviso); Andrea Lovotti (Zebre), Ornel Gega (Treviso), Lorenzo Cittadini (Bayonne), Marco Fuser (Treviso), George Biagi (Zebre), Abraham Steyn (Treviso), Maxime Mata Mbanda (Zebre), Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais Paris, capt).

Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini (Toulouse), Sami Panico (Calvisano), Pietro Ceccarelli (Zebre), Joshua Furno (Zebre), Francesco Minto (Treviso), Giorgio Bronzini (Treviso), Tommaso Allan (Treviso), Michele Campagnaro (Exeter Chiefs).

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon); George North (Northampton), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Liam Williams (Scarlets); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys); Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, capt), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Ross Moriarty (Gloucester).

Replacements: Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Rob Evans (Scarlets), Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs), Cory Hill (Newport Gwent Dragons), James King (Ospreys), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Sam Davies (Ospreys), Jamie Roberts (Harlequins).

Wales in the 2017 Six Nations
Sunday, 5 February, 14:00 GMT, Stadio Olimpico: Italy v Wales
Saturday, 11 February, 16:50 GMT, Principality Stadium: Wales v England
Saturday, 25 February, 14:25 GMT, Murrayfield: Scotland v Wales
Friday, 10 March, 20:05 GMT, Principality Stadium: Wales v Ireland
Saturday, 18 March, 14:45 GMT, Stade de France: France v Wales

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