Sam Warburton will be starting the game but won't be captain for the game against Italy

Italian job for Welsh Six Nations opener

3 February 2017

The Welsh rugby squad will be flying to Rome today for their opening game of the 2017 Six Nations.

Six nations fever will hit the nation again and there are some friends will be rivals for this Sunday’s game against Italy.

Giovanni’s Restaurant owner Giovanni Malacrino and 2016’s Miss Wales Ffion Moyle are two friends that will be supporting different teams this weekend.  Mr Malacrino was famous in 1998 for selling the grass of the old Cardiff Arms Park in pizza boxes and says support for the Italians has grown in recent years. “I remember the first game in Treviso, the Italians were scared stiff of the Welsh.  The players themselves are great people, on the field they hit lumps out of people but off it they are lovely.”

However Miss Wales says Wales could be strong underdogs for the Championship.  “We’ve got a good squad and some with injury have come back in, hopefully they can stand up to the performance they’ve promised to give.”  Despite supporting different teams, the friends are both predicting a close match but a Wales win for the weekend.

The game itself

Interim Head Coach, Rob Howley, has announced five changes from the squad that beat South Africa last November.  Nicky Smith and Samson Lee will replace Tom Francis and Gethin Jenkins in the front row while Rhys Webb returns from injury at scrum half.  Sam Warburton and Jake Ball replace the injured Dan Lydiate and Luke Charteris.  Although Sam Warburton returns to the starting XV, Alun Wyn Jones will be captaining Wales for the campaign.

Italy XV: 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).

Subs: 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 XV: 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).

Subs: 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)

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