Wales captain Sam Warburton has handed Warren Gatland a boost ahead of his side’s Six Nations opener against Italy by declaring himself fit for a place on the bench.
Warburton, who led the Lions to a series victory in Australia last summer, was a huge injury doubt for the reigning champions but the Cardiff flanker is ready for action should he be required at the Millennium Stadium.
Lock Alun Wyn Jones will lead Wales, who are 1/33 for victory, in the 25-year-old’s place and Justin Tipuric, who has been in encouraging form for the Ospreys in recent weeks, gets the nod to start at openside.
Wales are 2/1 to defend their Six Nations crown and are 6/1 to win the Grand Slam and Warburton’s presence and leadership qualities will aid a Wales team looking for an unprecedented third straight Six Nations crown.
But they will have to start their historic bid against an Italian side – who are 10/1 for the win – without prop Gethin Jenkins as he continues his recovery from a calf injury.
Wales will also be without the injured Ryan Jones while lock Ian Evans misses the whole campaign through suspension but centre Jonathan Davies had positive news ahead of a possible return against Ireland on February 8th.
Wales XV (v Italy): Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), George North (Northampton Saints); Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Racing Metro); Paul James (Bath), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Perpignan), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, capt), Dan Lydiate (Racing Metro), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Toby Faletau (NG Dragons).
Replacements: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Andrew Coombs (NG Dragons), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), James Hook (Perpignan), Liam Williams
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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