Shane Williams returns from a dead leg to replace Scarlets wing Dafydd James, after coming through the Ospreys clash with the Blues this weekend, and the Scarlets' Alix Popham and Blues' Nicky Robinson have both played themselves into a place on the bench after impressing the coach for their respective regions.
"Shane is a specialist left wing and his selection ahead of Dafydd is a case of 'horses for courses' after his return from injury," said Johnson. "Alix has been pushing hard in training and really played himself into the squad with his performance for the Scarlets at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday. He is replacing Gareth Delve on the bench, who has not had much game time recently, but the credit should go to Alix who is getting what he deserves and forcing us to look at him in a different light.
"We have kept the experience of our existing back row to start the match, but Alix will be a potent weapon for us from the bench if necessary. Nicky Robinson also comes onto the bench with Barry Davies missing out, he too impressed for his region at the weekend. Nicky is direct cover for Stephen Jones at fly-half, whose injury issues have been well documented but is thankfully reporting to us fully fit and raring to go, and we have retained Gavin Henson as cover for a number of positions in the backs.
"The philosophy here is to keep this side tight, we are a close knit group and we have had to maintain our focus in the last fortnight to ensure the performance will be right in front of our home fans at the Millennium Stadium."
Johnson has also issued a rallying call to the 74,500 fans attending the sell-out Millennium Stadium fixture and watching in the pubs, clubs and at home, saying 'don't give up on our boys just yet'.
"We have kept the faith with the majority of the side that underperformed in Dublin and told them to go out there on Saturday and put things right," stated Johnson. "The boys have a second chance to prove what they are capable of and that the last outing was just a blip. What we saw against Ireland just wasn't us and my message to the fans is don't give up on us yet, this is our 'hour of need' and we need you know more than ever.
"Wales has the best rugby fans in the world, every country says it, but this is the one place where it is true and they really do have a role to play in the helping us perform on Saturday. Italy will be strong, they are the biggest improvers in the Championship, but that is exactly the test we need, to get ourselves back on track.
"This season's Championship is the most open in years, which is great for the competition. If we do our part well and get our performances right in the next two weeks who knows were we will end up, after all it's still our title to defend."