Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Davies injury forces Hook 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).

View the original article here

This post was made using the Auto Blogging Software from WebMagnates.org This line will not appear when posts are made after activating the software to full version.

No comments:

Post a Comment