George North will play at centre for only the fifth time in his international career when Wales meet Italy this weekend, announced Wales coach Wayne Pivac on Thursday.
The change in position for North means Scarlets winger Johnny McNicholl earns his first international cap.
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.
#WALvITA TEAM 🗒 Johnny McNicholl set for first cap, uncapped Nick Tompkins named on bench for #GuinnessSixNations opener in Cardiff 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 Taulupe Faletau yn dychwelyd i’r tîm am y tro cyntaf ers y Chwe Gwlad 2018. #HWFN
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) January 30, 2020
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.”
Wales team to face Italy:
Leigh Halfpenny, Johnny McNicholl, George North, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Alun 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