His Scarlets team-mate Owens also has to be content with a place on the bench thanks to the return of British and Irish Lion Rees after a calf injury, with Richard Hibbard the hooker to miss out completely.
Rees, who last played on 14 January for the Scarlets, packs down between Adam Jones and Jenkins to reform the Lions front-row that took on South Africa in 2009.
"Due to injuries to all three players at one time or another we have not been able to field this 2009 Lions front row too often," said Wales head coach Warren Gatland.
"So, although we are more than happy with the job Ken has done for us, we are giving Matthew the opportunity to make his contribution as the competition reaches its climax.
"We are back at the Millennium Stadium in front of our home fans and we need to refocus sharply, after our Triple Crown triumph at Twickenham, if we are to give ourselves the best chance of being in contention for the Championship going into that final weekend against France.
"Italy will be hoping to find us complacent and with one eye on the French game, but nothing less than victory on Saturday will be accepted by this Wales team or satisfy the nation behind us.
"All of that leaves the players themselves brimming with ruthless intent."
Utility back James Hook has recovered from his bout of chicken pox, playing in Perpignan's 22-17 defeat by Agen at the weekend, and is also held in reserve, meaning fly-half Stephen Jones drops out of the match 22 completely.
Victory at the Millennium Stadium against the Azzurri will keep Gatland's side on course for a third Grand Slam in eight years, with France the final hurdle to face in Cardiff on 17 March.
Italy have beaten Wales in Rome, in
, and also held the Welsh in Cardiff in
Leigh Halfpenny (Blues); Alex Cuthbert (Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Blues), George North (Scarlets); Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Michael Phillips (Bayonne); Gethin Jenkins (Blues, capt), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Dragons), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Toby Faletau (Dragons).
Ken Owens (Scarlets), Paul James (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Dragons), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), James Hook (Perpignan), Scott Williams (Scarlets).
Mike Phillips (Bayonne), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), James Hook (Perpignan), Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Gavin Henson (Cardiff Blues), Ashley Beck (Ospreys), George North (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Harry Robinson (Cardiff Blues), Liam Williams (Scarlets), Lee Byrne (Clermont Auvergne)
Craig Mitchell (Exeter Chiefs), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Paul James (Ospreys), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Lou Reed (Scarlets), Luke Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), Sam Warburton (capt, Cardiff Blues), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), Andy Powell (Sale Sharks), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets).
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