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  • "Good look to the squad. Can't take the Azzurri lightly. A much-improved side."
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Wales team to face Italy

Campaign Series: CAPTAIN: Alun Wyn Jones will lead Wales in the Six Nations opener against Italy CAPTAIN: Alun Wyn Jones will lead Wales in the Six Nations opener against Italy

ALUN Wyn Jones will lead an experienced Wales side as they begin the defence of their RBS 6 Nations crown against Italy at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday (Kick-off 2.30pm).

Jones, who last captained Wales against the Azzurri in 2009, is part of a side who have all tasted Six Nations success in recent years.

The Ospreys skipper will line-up in the second-row with Perpignan's Luke Charteris as Wales look to create history by becoming the first side to win the tournament outright three times in succession.

In the front-row Paul James (Bath Rugby) will win his 49th Wales cap alongside Richard Hibbard (Ospreys) at hooker and Adam Jones (Ospreys), who will be taking to the field for his 90th Welsh cap.

Dan Lydiate (Racing Metro), player of the tournament in 2012, lines up alongside Ospreys flanker Justin Tipuric and Newport Gwent Dragons number eight Taulupe Faletau in an all British and Irish Lions back row.

Mike Phillips (Racing Metro) and Rhys Priestland (Scarlets) who started all of Wales' 2012 Grand Slam fixtures, partner at half-back.

Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro) lines up alongside Scott Williams (Scarlets) in the centre with Lions trio Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert (both Cardiff Blues) and George North (Northampton Saints) making up the back-three.

"We are looking for a good start, we started slowly last year and know we need to be ready from the off,” said Gatland.

"Italy started last year's tournament with a win over France so they will be ready on Saturday and we need to start well and build confidence and momentum.

"It's a strong, experienced side, but there was a lot of discussion about the selection which is a great position to be in as a coach.

"We've almost everyone fit for selection which is pretty rare.

"Alun-Wyn will lead the side with Sam starting on the bench and he has come through training well.”

Scarlets front-row duo Ken Owens and Rhodri Jones are named on the bench alongside Ospreys prop Ryan Bevington.

Squad captain Sam Warburton and Newport Gwent Dragons skipper Andrew Coombs complete the forward replacements.

Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb is named in a Six Nations match squad for the first time and he is joined by James Hook (Perpignan) and Liam Williams (Scarlets).

WALES SQUAD TO PLAY ITALY: Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), George North (Northampton Saints), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Paul James (Bath Rugby), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Perpignan), Alun Wyn Jones (CAPT – Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Racing Metro), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Andrew Coombs (Newport Gwent Dragons), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), James Hook (Perpignan), Liam Williams (Scarlets).

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