The previous week’s 38-18 defeat to England left just Stuart Hogg in the line-up, but despite scoring a pitch-length try against Italy, Hogg finds himself eased out of the full-back berth by Wales’ Leigh Halfpenny. However, centre Matt Scott, winger Tim Visser , scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, prop Ryan Grant and lock Richie Gray are included.
Team of the weekend: 15 Leigh Halfpenny (Wal), 14 Craig Gilroy (Ire), 13 Brad Barritt (Eng), 12 Matt Scott (Sco), 11 Tim Visser (Sco), 10 Dan Biggar (Wal), 9 Greig Laidlaw (Sco), 1 Ryan Grant (Sco), 2 Richard Hibbard (Wal), 3 Nicolas Mas (Fra), 4 Andrew Coombs (Wal), 5 Richie Gray (Sco), 6 Ryan Jones (Wal), 7 Chris Robshaw (Eng), 8 Sean O’Brien (Ire).
Howley set to leave out Warburton
SAM Warburton’s Lions aspirations have been dented after Wales interim head coach Rob Howley confirmed he is set to leave the flanker out of his side to face Italy a week on Saturday.
Injury permitting, Howley will opt to stick with the same XV who beat France 16-6 in Paris last weekend, even though Warburton is expected to be available for selection after a shoulder problem. Ryan Jones will retain the captaincy while Justin Tipuric will continue in Warburton’s preferred No 7 role.
Howley also welcomed the addition of lock Alun Wyn Jones to his squad. The 27-year-old returned to action as a substitute for the Ospreys in their RaboDirect PRO12 win at Ulster on Friday, having been sidelined since suffering a shoulder injury in Wales’ autumn defeat to Argentina.
Kaplan to retire at end of the season
JONATHAN Kaplan, Test rugby’s most experienced referee, is to retire at the end of the 2013 South African season.
The 46-year-old has taken charge of a record 68 internationals, and has been on the South Africa Rugby Union’s elite panel for 21 years. Kaplan has also refereed more Super Rugby and Currie Cup matches than any other official and will reach a century of Super Rugby fixtures when he takes charge of the game between the Cheetahs and the Sharks later this month.
Kaplan is best known in the northern hemisphere for being involved in the controversial ‘Ballgate’ incident at the 2011 Six Nations meeting between Wales and Ireland. Wales won 19-13 after scrum-half Mike Phillips’ crucial try was wrongly allowed to stand, despite the home side taking a quick throw-in with a different ball to the one kicked off the field.