North named at centre for Wales as Bigi captains Italy in Six Nations opener


George North will play at centre for only the fifth time in his international career as Wales meet Italy in Cardiff on Saturday, with the visitors set to be captained by Luca Bigi for the first time.

The change in position for North means Scarlets winger Johnny McNicholl earns his first international cap.

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North will partner with Hadleigh Parkes in midfield.

The team announcement comes on the same day as a major injury blow for Pivac with back-row Josh Navidi set to miss a large chunk of the Six Nations after picking up a hamstring injury.

Navidi, who has been capped 23 times, sustained a similar injury against France in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal.

“It is great for Johnny McNicholl to get his first cap, I thought he played really well against the Barbarians so it is a great opportunity for him this weekend,” Pivac said in a statement.

“George has had a number of games in the midfield for Wales and more recently for the Ospreys and he has been running there in training. We have been impressed with him there and he is excited by the opportunity.”

A notable absence from the team is former captain and Italy star player Sergio Parisse.

The Italian was due to retire after the Rugby World Cup but said he would play a part in this Six Nations after Italy’s pool match against New Zealand was cancelled.

However, he is only expected to play in Italy’s home games in Rome.

Wales team to face Italy:

Leigh Halfpenny, Johnny McNicholl, George North, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones, Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rob Evans, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, Ross Moriarty, Rhys Webb, Jarrod Evans, Nick Tompkins

Italy team to face Wales

Matteo Minozzi, Leonardo Sarto, Luca Morisi, Carlo Canna, Mattia Bellini, Tommaso Allan, Callum Braley; Braam Steyn, Sebastian Negri, Jake Polledri, Niccolo Cannone, Alessandro Zanni, Giosue Zilocchi, Luca Bigi, Andrea Lovotti

Replacements: Federico Zani, Danilo Fischetti, Marco Riccioni, Dean Budd, Marco Lazzaroni, Giovanni Licata, Guglielmo Palazzani, Jayden Hayward

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