The abrasive second row will lead a side which features Rhys Priestland at fly half and Scott Williams and Jamie Roberts in midfield. Luke Charteris will partner Jones at lock with the 28-year-old set to captain his country for the first time since 2009.
"Alun Wyn has matured as a player, his experience has come through and he did a great job in the third Test with the Lions in terms of his leadership," said Gatland.
"I thought he was the outstanding second row on that tour. He's been putting his body on the line week after week and I don't think it will be any different this weekend."
Gatland revealed this afternoon there had been a great deal of debate amongst the coaching staff on the selection for this weekend.
The New Zealander added: "We spoke to the players this morning and said this is the hardest team we've had to pick for a long time both in terms of the starting XV and the bench.
"We've gone with Rhys (Priestland) at the moment, he's been playing well for the Scarlets. It's a little bit hard on Dan (Biggar), he did well in the Six Nations last year and has also been playing well - it was a tough call.
"There was a lot of discussion about 10 and I've been impressed with Rhys Webb at scrum half so there was a debate at nine. Gethin Jenkins was fit and available but we felt it was a week where we could give him a bit more rest. He's struggled to get through full campaigns in the last few years but we've got pretty much everyone back fit and available."
One of those fit for selection is squad captain Warburton. Centre Jonathan Davies, who hasn't played since suffering a pectoral muscle injury against South Africa last autumn, is also on his way back to provide Gatland with another selection headache in the next few weeks.
"Sam has come through training really well and we think it's a good chance to see him on the bench," he said.
"We feel we lack a bit of cover at No. 8 so we've been running him there in training as well. But he's in good shape and we'll see what happens in the next few days.
"Jonathan Davies is on his way and we're releasing him back for the Scarlets this weekend - it's probably the healthiest the squad has been in a long time in terms of players being available. We've been keeping a close eye on Jon and hopefully he can get through this weekend and be in contention for the following weekend."
On the challenge of facing Italy, a side who downed both France and Ireland last year, the Wales head coach said: "It's important we don't get ahead of ourselves, Italy is a potential banana skin.
"It's going to be tough and physical - it always is against Italy. They've continued to improve as a side but fingers crossed we'll have a good start to the tournament."
There are still a limited number of tickets available for Wales vs Italy at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, February 1. There are single tickets available for Wales against France on February 21 but the home encounter with Scotland on the final weekend is sold out. To get your tickets go to www.wru.co.uk/tickets.