Updated: Tuesday, 28 January 2014 19:43 | By Agence France-Presse

Jones to captain Wales in Six Nations opener

Alun Wyn Jones will captain defending champions Wales in their Six Nations opener against Italy on Saturday, with Sam Warburton on the bench, the Welsh Rugby Union announced on Tuesday.

Jones to captain Wales in Six Nations opener

Australian Wallabies captain James Horwill (right) disrupts the line out ahead British and Irish Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones in the second rugby Test match, in Melbourne on June 29, 2013 - by William West

Ospreys skipper Jones, who last captained Wales against Italy in 2009, leads a side bidding to win an unprecedented third consecutive Six Nations crown.

He takes over from Cardiff Blues flanker Warburton, who recently spent two months on the sidelines with a shoulder problem.

Jamie Roberts of Racing-Metro returns at centre after missing last year's November Tests due to injury, with the Scarlets' Rhys Priestland edging out Dan Biggar of Ospreys at fly-half.

Bath prop Paul James replaces injured Cardiff front-rower Gethin Jenkins and Perpignan's Luke Charteris takes over from the suspended Ian Evans in the second row.

"We are looking for a good start," said head coach Warren Gatland in a statement released by the WRU. "We started slowly last year (losing 30-22 at home to Ireland) and know we need to be ready from the off.

"Italy started last year's tournament with a win over France so they will be ready on Saturday and we need to start well and build confidence and momentum.

"It's a strong, experienced side, but there was a lot of discussion about the selection, which is a great position to be in as a coach. We've almost everyone fit for selection, which is pretty rare.

"Alun Wyn will lead the side, with Sam starting on the bench and he has come through training well."

Joining Warburton among the replacements is Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb, who is named in a Six Nations match squad for the first time.

Wales team announced on Tuesday to play Italy in the opening Six Nations match at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday (1430 GMT kick-off):

Wales (15-1)

Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Scott Williams, Jamie Roberts, George North; Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric, Dan Lydiate; Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Luke Charteris; Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard, Paul James

Replacements: Ken Owens, Ryan Bevington, Rhodri Jones, Andrew Coombs, Sam Warburton, Rhys Webb, James Hook, Liam Williams

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