SCRUM-HALF Rhys Webb will make his first start for Wales in this year’s Six Nations Championship when they take on Italy in Rome, partnered by Owen Williams at fly-half.
Dan Biggar was due to start at No 10, but is out with a back injury, and Warren Gatland has not selected a specialist fly-half back-up in the match squad, which sees six changes from the team that lost 20-10 to England and no place for Alun Wyn Jones, either in the starting XV or on the bench.
With Wales facing the wooden spoon if they lose in Italy after three losses to date, Rio Dyer and Josh Adams are selected on the wings with Liam Williams returning at full back in place of Leigh Halfpenny.
Mason Grady, who won his first senior international cap against England at the Principality Stadium in round three, and Joe Hawkins continue in the Wales midfield.
Wyn Jones returns at loose-head prop to join captain Ken Owens (hooker) and Tomas Francis (tight-head prop) in the front row. Dafydd Jenkins makes his second start for Wales, partnering Adam Beard in the second row.
The Wales pack is completed with a back row of Jac Morgan (blind-side flanker), Justin Tipuric (open-side flanker) and Taulupe Faletau (No 8).
Among the Wales replacements Scott Baldwin, Gareth Thomas and Dillon Lewis provide the front row cover.
Rhys Davies, who made his senior Wales debut against Scotland at BT Murrayfield in round two of the Championship, and Tommy Reffell are the other forwards selected in the match day 23.
And the Wales replacement backs are Tomos Williams, George North and Louis Rees-Zammit.
Gatland said: “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.
“Rhys Webb 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 Williams comes in at full back. We did discuss whether we put Louis Rees-Zammit 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.
“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.
“The message to the players has been that 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.”
Wales senior men’s XV to play Italy in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, Saturday 11 March KO 2.15pm GMT. Live on ITV and S4C.
15. Liam Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 83 caps)
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 47 caps)
13. Mason Grady (Cardiff Rugby – 1 cap)
12. Joe Hawkins (Ospreys – 4 caps)
11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 5 caps)
10. Owen Williams (Ospreys – 5 caps)
9. Rhys Webb (Ospreys – 38 caps)
1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets – 46 caps
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets – 89 caps) captain
3. Tomas Francis (Ospreys – 69 caps)
4. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 44 caps)
5. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 4 caps)
6. Jac Morgan (Ospreys – 8 caps)
7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys – 91 caps)
8. Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff Rugby – 98 caps)
16. Scott Baldwin (Ospreys – 36 caps)
17. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 18 caps)
18. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby – 48 caps)
19. Rhys Davies (Ospreys – 1 cap)
20. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 7 caps)
21. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 43 caps)
22. George North (Ospreys – 111 caps)
23. Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby – 23 caps)