Faletau urges Wales to 'showcase talent' in Italy Six Nations clash


Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP)

New captain Taulupe Faletau wants Wales to "showcase their talent" when a much-changed side face Six Nations strugglers Italy in Cardiff on Sunday.

Wales boss Warren Gatland has made 10 changes to his team against an Italy side on a miserable run of 15 successive defeats in the tournament.

The New Zealander's revamp of the team sees Faletau leading Wales for the first time, with the No 8 looking to get the side back to winning ways after consecutive defeats by England and Ireland effectively ended Welsh hopes of winning the title.

Faletau will be leading Wales for the first time as part of the New Zealander's rev

"The boys have done some really good things in the last couple of games we've played," Faletau, returning from injury, told reporters on Saturday.

"We've seen in phases how exciting we can be, and for this game the challenge is to build on that," added the Bath back-row of a Wales side featuring newcomer James Davies, as well as Davies's fellow full Six Nations debutants in centre Owen Watkin and hooker Elliot Dee.

"It's just about working on what we've been doing in training and express yourself. When you look at the team we've got and the talent there, it's about showcasing that on Sunday."

Faletau, fit following a knee problem, captains Wales in the absence of rested regular skipper Alun Wyn Jones and the loose forward will line-up in a team featuring two other British and Irish Lions in wing George North and flanker Justin Tipuric.

"It is a huge honour to be given this opportunity, and I am looking forward to it," Faletau said. "I was a bit stunned (to be offered the captaincy). But after thinking about it, it is definitely something I would probably regret not doing. So the obvious answer was saying yes.

"Hopefully, my actions can do the talking."

Wales have never lost at home to Italy in the Six Nations, and they average 46 points a time against them over their last four meetings.

- 'Massive pressure' -

Italy are on course to finish bottom of the Six Nations table for the 13th time in 19 seasons but Azzurri coach Conor O'Shea is encouraged by the impact the likes of fullback Matteo Minnozzi and flanker Sebastian Negri have made upon the tournament this term.

"We have to perform to our maximum all the time and understand we will be under massive pressure," O'Shea said.

"This is all part of a huge learning process with a huge group of young guys who will learn what's needed. This isn't the PRO14 -- this is another level."

The former Ireland fullback added: "I am really proud of the impact players like Matteo Minnozzi and Sebastian Negri and others have made during this championship.

"Piece by piece our job is fixing Italian rugby, and piece by piece we are going to put together a side which will learn, which will get better and which will get fitter.

"We will grow and grow. It isn't easy, but if sport was easy then everybody would be able to do it.

"We will work on Sunday to see whether we can get ourselves into a position that an energy moment will go our way at the right time. And then you never know."