James Davies is finally poised to make his Wales debut against Italy on Sunday.
The Scarlets flanker is set to be named as one of 10 changes when coach Warren Gatland announces his team on Wednesday lunchtime.
It has been a long and winding road for 27-year-old Davies, who made his Scarlets debut four years ago as a late developer who had spent four years previously with Carmarthen Quins.
He has won a Guinness Pro 14 title winners’ medal, has Wales Sevens caps and an Olympic silver medal, earned with the Great Britain Sevens squad in Brazil in 2016.
But until very recently it appeared Gatland didn’t fancy him as an international 15-a-side player, despite being such a big admirer of older brother Jonathan and in spite of Davies’s contribution to the Scarlets reaching the European Champions Cup quarter-finals this season.
Davies will be handed the openside slot against the Italians in the fourth round of the Six Nations, with Justin Tipuric moving to blindside and Taulupe Faletau returning at No.8.
In all there will be just five starting XV survivors – Liam Williams, Steff Evans, Hadleigh Parkes, Gareth Davies and Cory Hill – from the team beaten 37-27 by Ireland 10 days ago.
Wing George North starts following two impressive performances off the bench against England and Ireland.
North’s selection comes after he missed his club Northampton’s Aviva Premiership game against Sale Sharks last Saturday, with interim Saints boss Alan Gaffney suggesting the 25-year-old did not want to play.
North had been released by Wales as it was a Six Nations fallow week, but he did not feature for Northampton amid reports he had an arrangement with former Saints rugby director Jim Mallinder that he would not play club rugby on rest weekends.
Williams moves to full-back instead of Leigh Halfpenny with Ospreys centre Owen Watkin partnering Parkes in midfield, while Gareth Anscombe replaces Dan Biggar at fly-half.
Hill is the only forward on starting duty against Ireland set to be retained, with the likes of captain Alun Wyn Jones and hooker Ken Owens being rested.
A new front-row of Nicky Smith, Elliot Dee and Tomas Francis will pack down against the Azzurri, with the experienced Bradley Davies lining up as Hill’s second-row partner.
Wales conclude their Six Nations campaign with two home games as they host Italy and then France on March 17.
Probable Wales team: L Williams (Saracens); S Evans (Scarlets), O Watkin (Ospreys), H Parkes (Scarlets), G North (Northampton); G Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), G Davies (Scarlets); N Smith (Ospreys), E Dee (Dragons), T Francis (Exeter), B Davies (Ospreys), C Hill (Dragons), J Tipuric (Ospreys), J Davies (Scarlets), T Faletau (Bath).
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