Jonathan Davies to captain Wales for first time against Italy

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Wasps flanker Thomas Young and Leicester wing Jonah Holmes will make their Six Nations debuts for Wales in Saturday’s clash with Italy.

Young, who won two caps on Wales’ 2017 summer tour against Tonga and Samoa, lines up in Rome alongside back-row colleagues Aaron Wainwright and Josh Navidi.

Centre Jonathan Davies captains his country for a first time – regular skipper Alun Wyn Jones is on the replacements’ bench – as Wales head coach Warren Gatland makes 10 changes and one positional switch from the side that beat France last week.

There is also a Six Nations bow for Holmes, who made his Test debut during this season’s autumn series, with scrum-half Aled Davies and flanker Wainwright handed first starts in the tournament.

Centre Owen Watkin, fly-half Dan Biggar, who replaces Gareth Anscombe, hooker Elliot Dee and lock Jake Ball also feature, with Navidi moving from blindside flanker to number eight.

Players that started the 24-19 victory over France who are not involved in Wales’ match-day 23 this weekend include wing George North, centre Hadleigh Parkes and hooker Ken Owens as Gatland maximises a 31-man squad who have trained in Nice this week.

Young is the son of Wasps rugby director and former Wales prop Dai Young, and he has been among the Gallagher Premiership’s most consistent performers this season.

He now has a glorious chance to show his Test credentials at the start of a World Cup year.

Victory for Wales at the Stadio Olimpico would make it 11 successive wins and equal their all-time unbeaten record set between 1907 and 1910.

They have also not lost to Italy for 12 years, while the Azzurri are without a win against any Six Nations team since 2015.

Gatland said: “We have made a number of changes this weekend, but have picked what we think is a very exciting team that still has huge experience throughout it.

“We have made a similar number of changes to what we did last year, but it is all about opportunity for these players. We have had a squad of 31 training together, replicating the Rugby World Cup, and it is important they get game time.

“It is a great opportunity for Jon (Davies) as captain. He has a huge amount of experience, is a great leader and it is a great honour for him to lead his country.

Leicester winger Jonah Holmes is an exciting prospect for Wales.

Leicester winger Jonah Holmes is an exciting prospect for Wales.

“Italy will be hurting after last weekend (they lost to Scotland), but they are a different proposition in Rome.

“They are an experienced team themselves and they will be looking to put things right on the pitch after their opening defeat.”

Wales team to play Italy in Rome on Saturday: Liam Williams (Saracens); Jonah Holmes (Leicester), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets, capt), Owen Watkin (Ospreys), Josh Adams (Worcester); Dan Biggar (Northampton), Aled Davies (Ospreys); Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Adam Beard (Ospreys), Aaron Wainwright (Dragons), Thomas Young (Wasps), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues).

Replacements: Ryan Elias (Scarlets), Wyn Jones (Scarlets), Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues), Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Ross Moriarty (Dragons), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), Hallam Amos (Dragons).

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Rob Kearney set to start at full-back for Ireland against Scotland

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Rob Kearney is expected to return at full-back for Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations trip to Scotland on Saturday.

The double Grand Slam-winning star was omitted from last weekend’s 32-20 defeat by England, though his replacement Robbie Henshaw struggled positionally at the Aviva Stadium.

Garry Ringrose’s hamstring injury opens the door for Henshaw to revert to his regular role in the centres, with head coach Joe Schmidt understood to be ready to restore Kearney to the 15 shirt.

Kearney approached the Six Nations chasing full fitness after a thigh issue and stayed with Leinster when Ireland headed off for warm-weather training in Portugal.

Ireland boss Schmidt then handed Henshaw a chance to impress against England at 15, the position where he made his name at Connacht and his Test debut in 2013.

The British and Irish Lions centre was unable to thrive as England exploited a lack of cohesion in Ireland’s back-three en route to their punishing four-try victory.

Connacht lock Quinn Roux should start at Murrayfield, with the dependable Devin Toner ruled out with an ankle injury.

Roux was not named in Ireland’s initial Six Nations squad, but now seems to have edged ahead of provincial team-mate Ultan Dillane, who should be named among the replacements.

Toner’s absence has exacerbated the prior lock losses of Iain Henderson to a finger problem and Tadhg Beirne to a knee complaint.

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Comparing Wales' record winning runs as they close in on history

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Wales will equal their longest unbeaten run in Test history if they beat Six Nations opponents Italy on Saturday.

Warren Gatland’s men have won 10 games in a row, and one more victory will matching the sequence set between 1907 and 1910.

Here, Press Association Sport crunches the numbers of the two achievements.

WALES – 11 SUCCESSIVE WINS (March 1907-January 1910)

29 – the points Wales scored in a victory over Ireland that started the run.

4 – the number of tries Reggie Gibbs scored in a 36-4 win against France.

6 – the number of different venues Wales played at.

17 – the number of tries wing Johnny Williams scored in his 17-game international career.

49 – the number of points Wales scored in their first Five Nations fixture against France in January 1910.

Wales have beaten South Africa twice in their 10-game run.

Wales have beaten South Africa twice in their 10-game run.

2 – the number of Four Nations Grand Slams Wales won between 1907 and 1910.

246 – the total number of points Wales scored in winning 11 successive games.

65 – the total number of points Wales conceded.

11 – the number of points England scored at Twickenham to end Wales’ run.

109 – the number of years Wales’ longest unbeaten run has stood for.

WALES – 10 SUCCESSIVE WINS (March 2018-present)

2 – the number of times Wales have beaten each of France, South Africa and Argentina during the run.

6 – the number of tries wing George North has scored.

7 – the number of different countries Wales have beaten (Italy, France, South Africa, Argentina, Scotland, Australia and Tonga).

17 – the number of different Wales players who have scored tries.

347 – days since Wales lost a Test match.

Warren Gatland will bow out as Wales boss after 12 years following this year's World Cup.

Warren Gatland will bow out as Wales boss after 12 years following this year’s World Cup.

5 – the number of different venues Wales played at.

50 – Wales’ biggest points margin during the run (74-24 against Tonga).

275 – the total number of points Wales scored in winning 10 successive games.

139 – the total number of points Wales conceded.

24 – the most points scored against Wales during the run (by Tonga).

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