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Warren Gatland set to make 10 Wales changes for Six Nations clash with Italy

Scarlets flanker James Davies, it is understood, will make his Test debut in a new-look back row.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland is set to make wholesale changes for Sunday’s NatWest 6 Nations clash against Italy in Cardiff.

Press Association Sport understands there will be just five starting XV survivors – Liam Williams, Steff Evans, Hadleigh Parkes, Gareth Davies and Cory Hill – from the team beaten 37-27 by Ireland 10 days ago.

Scarlets flanker James Davies, it is understood, will make his Test debut in a new-look back-row alongside Justin Tipuric and fit-again Bath number eight Taulupe Faletau, who features for the first time in this season’s Six Nations.

Davies – younger brother of Wales and British and Irish Lions centre Jonathan Davies – is thought to be among 10 personnel switches made by Gatland, with the line-up being announced at midday on Wednesday.

Davies, 27, was an integral part of the Scarlets’ PRO12 title triumph last term, in addition to helping them reach this season’s European Champions Cup quarter-finals. He also featured for the Great Britain Olympic silver medal-winning rugby sevens squad at Rio 2016.

Wing George North starts following two impressive performances off the bench against England and Ireland.

North’s selection comes after he missed his club Northampton’s Aviva Premiership game against Sale Sharks last Saturday, with interim Saints boss Alan Gaffney suggesting the 25-year-old did not want to play.

North had been released by Wales as it was a Six Nations fallow week, but he did not feature for Northampton amid reports he had an arrangement with former Saints rugby director Jim Mallinder that he would not play club rugby on rest weekends.

Williams moves to full-back instead of Leigh Halfpenny with Ospreys centre Owen Watkin partnering Parkes in midfield, while Gareth Anscombe replaces Dan Biggar at fly-half.

Hill is the only forward on starting duty against Ireland set to be retained, with the likes of captain Alun Wyn Jones and hooker Ken Owens being rested.

A new front-row of Nicky Smith, Elliot Dee and Tomas Francis will pack down against the Azzurri, with the experienced Bradley Davies lining up as Hill’s second-row partner.

Wales conclude their Six Nations campaign with two home games as they host Italy and then France on March 17.

Probable Wales team: L Williams (Saracens); S Evans (Scarlets), O Watkin (Ospreys), H Parkes (Scarlets), G North (Northampton); G Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), G Davies (Scarlets); N Smith (Ospreys), E Dee (Dragons), T Francis (Exeter), B Davies (Ospreys), C Hill (Dragons), J Tipuric (Ospreys), J Davies (Scarlets), T Faletau (Bath).

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