Thomas to skipper Wales at RWC
PA Sport
August 10, 2007

Gareth Thomas will captain Wales at the World Cup next month.

The 33-year-old, who led his country to the 2005 Grand Slam and twice captained the Lions against New Zealand, has been appointed ahead of Stephen Jones.

Jenkins last season nominated Jones as the man to captain Wales into the World Cup - but the Llanelli fly-half has been hampered in recent weeks by a groin injury.

Jones will miss Wales' World Cup warm-up Tests against Argentina and France and so Jenkins turned to Thomas, who led the side on the summer tour of Australia and against England at Twickenham last weekend.

Jenkins explained: "Gareth Thomas has the captaincy credentials to take us where we need to go and his influence on and off the pitch is there for all to see.

"Myself, Stephen and Gareth have had long discussions on the subject and identified that Stephen's injury means he is not going to have the opportunity to influence the build-up to the World Cup in the manner in which we would have wished him to do so.

"I have picked my captain based on the need to have a skipper who can fully influence the squad from today. Gareth is fully fit and raring to go and we are lucky to have someone of his calibre to call upon.

"Stephen's injury means that this is the right decision. He has expressed his own concerns about fulfilling the role knowing he won't be able to play in our next two games - matches that will be extremely important to our World Cup bid.

"He remains a vital part of this squad and his contribution, along with the rest of the leadership group, will be as invaluable as ever.

"If we are going to achieve our aims we are going to need the very best of what the likes of both Alfie and Stephen have to offer."

In addition to Thomas and Jones, Jenkins' leadership group is made up of Michael Owen, who has also captained Wales, Alun-Wyn Jones, Jonathan Thomas and Dwayne Peel.

Thomas is Wales' most-capped player - he makes his 96th appearance against Argentina next Saturday - and is preparing to play in his fourth World Cup.

He leads a 30-man squad - comprising 16 forwards and 14 backs - that includes lock Will James, who made his Test debut in the record 62-5 defeat to England last weekend, and Wales' try-scorer at Twickenham Dafydd James.

Nineteen members of the squad have previous World Cup experience, with Colin Charvis, Martyn Williams and Stephen Jones going to their third tournament.

"There is an exciting mix of experience, energy, professionalism and talent and we believe these are the players that can do Wales proud at the Rugby World Cup," said Jenkins.

"We have players with big reputations and vast experience who have stepped up and shown us they want to be a part of what we are trying to achieve. Then we have players like Will James who has grasped his opportunity with both hands, put in the hard graft and quickly made himself a part of the squad.

"Our message to the players has been that they are in this squad because we believe in them - they have all earned their places by right and now have a fantastic opportunity ahead of them.

"Every one of them has put in the groundwork. The stage is set and when their country needs them most, we know they will give their all.

"We are fitter and stronger than we have ever been before and are set to peak our conditioning levels just as the competition starts."

Thomas will captain Wales from the inside centre position when they continue their World Cup warm-up programme against Millennium Stadium visitors Argentina tomorrow week.

There are 12 changes from the side mauled 62-5 by England at Twickenham last Saturday, with only Thomas, wing Dafydd James and centre Tom Shanklin remaining.

Ospreys lock Ian Evans, meanwhile, makes his first appearance since suffering a dislocated shoulder last December.

Wales' World Cup Squad:

Backs: G Thomas (Cardiff Blues, capt), K Morgan (Newport Gwent Dragons), S Williams (Ospreys), D James (Llanelli Scarlets), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), J Robinson (Cardiff Blues), S Parker (Ospreys), M Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), S Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), J Hook (Ospreys), C Sweeney (Newport Gwent Dragons), D Peel (Llanelli Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys), G Cooper (Gloucester).

Forwards: M Owen (Newport Gwent Dragons), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), C Charvis (Newport Gwent Dragons), A Popham (Llanelli Scarlets), J Thomas (Ospreys), I Evans (Ospreys), W James (Gloucester), A-W Jones (Ospreys), I Gough (Ospreys), C Horsman (Worcester), A Jones (Ospreys), M Rees (Llanelli Scarlets), R Thomas (Cardiff Blues), H Bennett (Ospreys), G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), D Jones (Ospreys).

Wales' team to face Argentina on 18 August:

Kevin Morgan (Dragons): Dafydd James (Scarlets), Tom Shanklin (Blues), Gareth Thomas (Blues, captain), Mark Jones (Scarlets); James Hook (Ospreys), Dwayne Peel (Scarlets); Duncan Jones (Ospreys), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Ian Gough (Ospreys), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Martyn Williams (Blues), Alix Popham (Scarlets).

Replacements: T Rhys Thomas (Blues), Gethin Jenkins (Blues), Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Colin Charvis (Dragons), Mike Phillips (Ospreys), Ceri Sweeney (Dragons), Jamie Robinson (Blues).

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