Wales have named one uncapped player in their starting XV to kick off the 2020 Guinness Six Nations with Scarlets wing Johnny McNicholl set to make his first Test appearance.
McNicholl, who pulled on the Wales jersey for the first time against the Barbarians in December, will become the 238th Scarlets player to play Test rugby when he runs out to face Italy at the Principality Stadium.
McNicholl is named as one of eight Scarlets in Wayne Pivac’s 23-man squad to face the Azzurri with Leigh Halfpenny, Hadleigh Parkes, Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Jake Ball included in the starting line-up and Ryan Elias and Rob Evans among the replacements.
McNicholl is joined in the back-three by Josh Adams and Scarlets team-mate Halfpenny. Parkes and George North partner in midfield, with North making his fifth start in the centre berth for his country. Tomos Williams and Dan Biggar line up at half-back. Scarlets scrum-half Gareth Davies misses out because of injury.
Wyn Jones, Owens and Dillon Lewis comprise the front-row with Ball partnering captain Alun Wyn Jones in the second-row.
“I’m really happy with the side and really looking forward to this weekend,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.
“It is great for Johnny McNicholl to get his first cap, I thought he played really well against the Barbarians so it is a great opportunity for him this weekend.
“We’ve had a couple of injuries, Josh Navidi picked up a hamstring injury so he is out for a few weeks, while Liam Williams, Owen Watkin, Gareth Davies and Elliot Dee weren’t quite ready to be available for selection.
“The whole team has a great vibe and we are looking forward to getting out there in front of our home supporters on Saturday.”
WALES TEAM TO PLAY ITALY (Saturday February 1 KO14.15 BBC & S4C)
- Leigh Halfpenny (85 Caps)
- Johnny McNicholl (*Uncapped)
- George North (91 Caps)
- Hadleigh Parkes (25 Caps)
- Josh Adams (21 Caps)
- Dan Biggar (79 Caps)
- Tomos Williams (16 Caps)
- Wyn Jones (22 Caps)
- Ken Owens (73 Caps)
- Dillon Lewis (22 Caps)
- Jake Ball (42 Caps)
- Alun Wyn Jones (C) (134 Caps)
- Aaron Wainwright (18 Caps)
- Justin Tipuric (72 Caps)
- Taulupe Faletau (72 Caps)
- Ryan Elias (9 Caps)
- Rob Evans (36 Caps)
- Leon Brown (6 Caps)
- Cory Hill (24 Caps)
- Ross Moriarty (41 Caps)
- Rhys Webb (31 Caps)
- Jarrod Evans (3 Caps)
- Nick Tompkins (*Uncapped)