The countdown is well and truly on to the start of the Six Nations with Wayne Pivac mulling over the composition of his Wales team to face Italy at the Principality Stadium a week on Saturday.

Warren Gatland’s coaching successor is due to name it next Thursday for the kick-off of Wales’ defence of the European title.

So who will Pivac pick for a match in which he will surely target a bonus point victory?

Andy Howell has been sifting through the chatter coming out of the Wales camp.

BACK-THREE

Liam Williams is definitely out, leaving the door open for the in-form and master goal-kicker Leigh Halfpenny to start at full-back.

Josh Adams will be on one wing with Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Owen Lane or Jonah Holmes on the other.

There's also the fact Rees-Zammit has missed a number of days training because he had to be released back to Gloucester on Wednesday.

New Zealander McNicholl, who has qualified for Wales on residency after being brought to the Scarlets by Pivac, is a classy player who made a big impression during the uncapped match with the Barbarians last month.

Likely back-three: 15, Halfpenny, 14, McNicholl, 11, Adams.

CENTRE

It would be a massive surprise if Parkes wasn’t picked at inside-centre because he was a mainstay under Gatland and with Pivac at the Scarlets.

Wales have major concerns at No.13 with Lions star Jonathan Davies out long-term and Owen Watkin struggling to be fit for Italy following knee cartilage surgery.

The uncapped Nick Tompkins, an Under-20 World Championship final winner with England, qualifies through a Welsh grandmother and has come onboard.

He has the pedigree at club level with Saracens being Champions Cup holders and Gallagher Premiership winners although the latter is tarnished by the salary cap scandal which has embroiled them.

Pivac appears to have ditched the idea of switching Josh Adams – he moved to centre in the final quarter against the Barbarians – and has been running North in midfield during training.

Owen Lane was a centre in age-grade rugby while Owen Williams has played at No.12 for Wales and in club rugby.

Likely centres: 13, North, 12, Parkes.

HALF-BACKS

Jarrod Evans was dynamite pulling the strings at outside-half during Pivac’s debut as Wales coach, during the 43-33 victory over the Barbarians, but suffered a head knock for Cardiff Blues against the Scarlets and that’s been a cause for concern.

Dan Biggar has been getting rave reviews for Northampton Saints, while Owen Williams, who Pivac named in his squad as an outside-half or play-making centre, has made a remarkable comeback with Gloucester following a nine-month absence recovering from knee surgery.

Scrum-half sees the up-and-coming Tomos Williams, who starred against the Barbarians, up against Gatland’s Six Nations and World Cup incumbent Gareth Davies and the returning Rhys Webb, who had been ineligible under the 60-cap rule for exiles before signalling his return home by signing for the Ospreys.

Pivac is spoilt for choice and Wales need to manufacture tries because the destiny of the title could come down to bonus points.

The brave call would be Tomos Williams and Evans but it’s Pivac’s first Six Nations match and he may be more pragmatic.

Likely half-backs: 10, Biggar, 9, Tomos Williams.

FRONT-ROW

Hooker Ken Owens and loosehead prop Wyn Jones appear nailed on but tighthead is more difficult to call.

Will Dillon Lewis start or is he seen as more effective off the bench? Will Leon Brown be considered after improving his scrummaging working under former France hooker Olivier Azam or will newcomer WillGriff John be capped?

Sale Sharks prop John, who’s also a good ball-handler, may be the better scrummager of the three contenders so could get the nod because one department Italy have traditionally been pretty strong in is the shoving contest.

Likely front-three: 1, Wyn Jones, 2, Owens, 3, John.

SECOND-ROW

It will be skipper Alun Wyn Jones partnered by one of Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Seb Davies, Will Rowlands and Cory Hill.

Wasps lock Rowlands’ selection came out of the blue, with most unaware he had Welsh qualifications through his father.

Starting with him against Italy would be a massive call, especially after Ball arguably overshadowed Jones at the World Cup by producing his best displays for Wales, while Hill is a real leader and a skilled forward who could revel in the Pivac way of playing.

Likely locks: 4, Ball, 5 Alun Wyn Jones.

BACK-ROW

Aaron Shingler of Wales makes a break against New Zealand in the bronze medal match at the World Cup

Justin Tipuric led Wales against the Barbarians and not only is he one of the best flankers in the world but ideally suited to the fast-handling and wide game Pivac favours.

But who starts alongside him? Should the previously outstanding Taulupe Faletau be parachuted in as a starter at No.8 after just three matches in 13 injury-wracked months? Is he fit enough for Test rugby?

Ross Moriarty, Josh Navidi and, most recently, Aaron Wainwright have packed down at the base of the scrum and all three can play blindside flanker with Navidi and Wainwright equally comfortable at openside.

Aaron Shingler is a specialist blindside flanker, Wales’ best back-row lineout forward and was a favourite of Pivac at the Scarlets.

Gatland was also keen on him and he’s made a successful comeback from a major knee injury this campaign, at regional and international level, which could edge it in his favour.

Likely back-row: 6, Shingler, 7, Tipuric, 8 Faletau.