Sam Warburton
Benched: Sam Warbuton is still in recovery after shoulder injury. erft

Sam Warbuton has been left out of the Wales team for their opening Six Nations match against Italy in Cardiff on Saturday.

Alun Wyn Jones will step up as captain while Warburton, yet to fully recover from a shoulder injury, will sit on the bench as Wales begin their title defence.

Gethin Jenkins and Ryan Jones will also be missing from the pack with injuries to their knee and hamstring respectively.

Second rower Ian Evans will not feature in Warren Gatland's side following his 12-week ban for stamping on Leinster's Mike Mcarthy during an Ospreys Heineken Cup clash.

Lions captain Warburton has not played since picking up his shoulder injury against Australia in November and will be replaced by Justin Tipuric at open-side flanker.

Gatland remains positive about the progress made by 25-year-old Warburton during training, and will perhaps prefer to unleash him against the tougher Six Nations sides. However he is wary of the threat posed by Italy.

"We are looking for a good start; we started slowly last year and know we need to be ready from the off," said Gatland.

"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."

Wales team to face Italy:

15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North; 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips; 1 Paul James, 2 Richard Hibbard, 3 Adam Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 6 Dan Lydiate, 7 Justin Tipuric, 8 Toby Faletau.

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