Wales captain Sam Warburton is set to make his first appearance of the Rugby World Cup warm-up campaign after being named on Thursday to lead the side in Saturday’s match against Italy at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
The openside flanker suffered a shoulder injury in training last month and was rested from Wales’ 16-10 win away last weekend over Six Nations champions Ireland in Dublin.
Wales coach Warren Gatland has named a strong side for the team’s final World Cup tune-up, with fullback Leigh Halfpenny, winger George North, halves Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb and prop Gethin Jenkins all starting alongside Warburton.
“With our opening Rugby World Cup fixture just two weeks away, this weekend is an important run-out and opportunity for fine-tuning,” said Gatland of a match with an Italy side thrashed 48-7 last weekend by Scotland at Murrayfield.
“We were happy with the performance away from home in Ireland last weekend, but there are plenty of things we need to work on from that victory, so we will be looking to put those in place on Saturday,” the New Zealander added.
“We’ve made a couple of changes to try a few new combinations and ensure players get some more game time under their belts.”
Wales begin their World Cup campaign against Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium on September 20, but whether they get through to the last eight appears to depend on the outcome of their Twickenham clashes against pool rivals England and Australia.
Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Cory Allen, Scott Williams, George North; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Taulupe Faletau, Sam Warburton (capt), James King; Dominic Day, Jake Ball; Tomas Francis, Ken Owens, Gethin Jenkins. Res: Kristian Dacey, Paul James, Aaron Jarvis, Luke Charteris, Ross Moriarty, Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland, Matthew Morgan.