Warren Gatland has ripped up his Wales starting XV making 10 changes for the Italy match this Sunday, including handing the captaincy to Taulupe Faletau for the first time.
The 70-cap No 8 makes his first appearance of the tournament and comes straight in to start and skipper the side. Alun Wyn Jones is rested and does not make the 23-man squad at all.
‘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,’ said Gatland.
After the 37-27 defeat to Ireland in Dublin the head coach warned he would make alterations – and he has kept to that promise, with only one forward and four backs surviving.
George North is one of the new starters – he will make his first Six Nations start since last March against France – after controversially missing Northampton Saints’ defeat to Sale in the Premiership last weekend.
His appearance means that Liam Williams shifts to full-back, where he excelled for the Lions against New Zealand, and Leigh Halfpenny drops to the bench.
In the pack there is an entirely different front-row. Nicky Smith and Tomas Francis are the props either side of Elliot Dee – the 24-year-old hooker makes his first Test start.
Cory Hill is the only forward kept in place as Bradley Davies comes in for Jones, Justin Tipuric plays in the unfamiliar position of blindside flanker and James Davies makes a long-awaited debut at openside.
The 27-year-old is an electric talent and cut his teeth in Sevens, winning a silver medal with Team GB at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
‘We have made some changes, but 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.’
Gatland can afford to make this many changes as he looks to find the perfect formula for the World Cup in 18 months’ time, as Wales are out of the running in the Six Nations having lost twice already, to England and Ireland.
And despite plumping for a team that has never played together before, his new-look line-up does still boast 424 caps-worth of experience and four Test Lions, with two more in Ken Owens and Halfpenny on the bench.
Wales have not lost to Italy since an embarrassing 23-20 defeat at the Stadio Flaminio 11 years ago. They have scored 20 tries in their last three matches against the Azzurri whipping boys – and with this side it looks like free and fast is the desired style for Sunday’s match.
WALES TEAM TO FACE ITALY:
15: Liam Williams (Saracens, 46 Caps)
14: George North (Northampton Saints, 71 Caps)
13: Owen Watkin (Ospreys, 3 Caps)
12: Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets, 4 Caps)
11: Steff Evans (Scarlets, 8 Caps)
10: Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues, 14 Caps)
9: Gareth Davies (Scarlets, 30 Caps)
1: Nicky Smith (Ospreys, 16 Caps)
2: Elliot Dee (Dragons, 5 Caps)
3: Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs, 29 Caps)
4: Cory Hill (Dragons, 13 Caps, Cory Hill (Dragons, 13 Caps)
5: Bradley Davies (Ospreys, 60 Caps)
6: Justin Tipuric (Ospreys, 55 Caps)
7: James Davies (Scarlets, uncapped)
8: Taulupe Faletau (Bath, 70 Caps)
16: Ken Owens (Scarlets) (55 Caps)
17: Rob Evans (Scarlets) (23 Caps)
18: Samson Lee (Scarlets) (37 Caps)
19: Seb Davies (Cardiff Blues) (3 Caps)
20: Ellis Jenkins (Cardiff Blues) (5 Caps)
21: Aled Davies (Scarlets) (7 Caps)
22: Rhys Patchell (Scarlets) (7 Caps)
23: Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets) (76 Caps)