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Faletau returns for Wales as Gatland makes 10 changes

Taulupe Faletau is to make his return to action and will captain Wales for the first time against Italy, with Warren Gatland making 10 changes to the side that lost to Ireland.

Liam Williams, Steff Evans, Hadleigh Parkes, Gareth Davies and Cory Hill are the only players to survive from the 37-27 defeat in Dublin.

Faletau has not featured since Wales’ 24-22 win over South Africa in December because of a knee injury but is included in a back row that also features debutant James Davies and Justin Tipuric.

Taking Dan Biggar’s place at fly-half is Gareth Anscombe, while George North starts at right wing, with Liam Williams switching to full-back and Owen Watkin making a maiden Six Nations start at centre.

Elliot Dee, who will make his first start, Nicky Smith and Tomas Francis form an all-new front row, as lock Hill is joined in the second row by Bradley Davies.

Gatland, who has seen his side win just one of their three matches said: “We are bringing in a lot of quality and a lot of experience with the likes of Bradley Davies, Justin Tipuric, George North and Taulupe.

“Add into that James Davies who gets his first cap, Elliot Dee who gets his first start – this is a great opportunity for them to play tournament rugby.

“It is challenging making changes, but we have picked a really exciting team and Sunday is their chance.

“It is a great opportunity for Taulupe – he is a world-class player, hugely experienced and this will be great for his development and we are looking forward to seeing those leadership qualities come through.”

Wales team: Liam Williams, George North, Owen Watkin, Hadleigh Parkes, Steffan Evans, Gareth Anscombe, Gareth Davies; Nicky Smith, Elliot Dee, Tomas Francis, Cory Hill, Bradley Davies, Justin Tipuric, James Davies, Taulupe Faletau (captain).

Substitutes: Ken Owens, Rob Evans, Samson Lee, Seb Davies, Ellis Jenkins, Aled Davies, Rhys Patchell, Leigh Halfpenny. News wire is powered by opta

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