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Warburton held in reserve as Gatland gives 10 jersey to Priestland

There is no place in the squad for Dan Biggar.

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

WALES AND LIONS captain Sam Warburton will begin the Six Nations on the bench.

The defending champions take on Italy in this Saturday’s tournament opener in Cardiff and head coach Warren Gatland has picked Dan Lydiate and Justin Tipuric as his flankers.

The Kiwi has also handed a start to Rhys Priestland at number 10 with no room in the 23-man squad for Dan Biggar with James Hook providing cover from the bench.

In Warburton’s absence, Alun Wyn Jones will captain the side from the second row along side Luke Charteris.

Injury to Jonathan Davies means he will have to wait to reunite with his third-Test Lions centre partner Jamie Roberts. Exciting Llanelli Scarlets back Scott Williams is given the centre role with Lions trio George North, Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny in the back three.

“We started slowly last year and know we need to be ready from the off,” says 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.”

Wales (v Italy): L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, S Williams, J Roberts, G North; R Priestland, M Phillips; P James, R Hibbard, A Jones; AW Jones (Capt.), L Charteris; D Lydiate, J Tipuric, T Faletau.

Replacements: K Owens, R Bevington, R Jones, A Coombs, S Warburton, R Webb, J Hook, L Williams.

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