Thomas gets Gatland's vote
May 14, 2008
Jonathan Thomas will be pressed into action as an emergency open-side flanker against South Africa this summer after Wales coach Warren Gatland decided not to recall veteran loose-forward Colin Charvis.
The Grand Slam winners will head to South Africa without a specialist open-side flanker after injuries ruled out Martyn Williams, perennial understudy Robin Sowden-Taylor and Ospreys youngster Ben Lewis.
Charvis can play in any of the three back-row positions and had been tipped for a recall after missing the RBS 6 Nations.
But Gatland decided his attention has to be on the future and Thomas or Dafydd Jones are candidates to switch from the blind-side flank.
''It wasn't a close decision,'' said Gatland.
''We had looked at the possibility of bringing back Colin as a short-term fill but this tour is about the future and it has given us the chance to call some younger guys into the squad to develop them.
''We feel we can cover the number seven jersey by moving Jonathan Thomas from blindside to openside flanker and including Dafydd Jones in the squad.
''Colin has had an opportunity in a number of Tests. We didn't have Colin involved in the Six Nations so we felt we are looking to the future as much as anything as well.''
Wales have been hit bad by injuries. Williams is joined on the sidelines this summer by fellow Grand Slam winners Gavin Henson, Lee Byrne, Dwayne Peel and Mike Phillips.
As a result, the uncapped trio of London Irish scrum-half Warren Fury, Cardiff lock Bradley Davies and Ospreys centre Andrew Bishop have all been included.
Gatland said: ''For a number of younger guys this is a great opportunity. We still feel there is an incredibly strong team we can get out.
''And for a number of the players chosen it is about what I've heard about them and Bradley and Andrew are thought of very highly.
''I also worked with Warren during our Wasps days and I know what a good kid he is.''
Despite the injuries, the bulk of Gatland's 27-man squad boast Grand Slam winners medals and the tight-five looks competitive with the likes of Duncan Jones, Adam Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Huw Bennett, Ian Gough, Alun-Wyn Jones and Ian Evans all travelling.
In the backs, Gatland has experienced heads like James Hook, Stephen Jones, Sonny Parker Tom Shanklin, Shane Williams, and Mark Jones.
The concern is inexperience in key positions, not only on the openside flank but at full-back where contenders Morgan Stoddart and Jamie Roberts have just one cap each.
The first Test is in Bloemfontein on June 7 with the second a week later at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
Wales squad for Test matches against South Africa in Bloemfontein on June 7 and Pretoria on June 14:
Backs: M Stoddart (Llanelli Scarlets), A Bishop (Ospreys), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Ospreys), T James (Cardiff Blues), M Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), S Parker (Ospreys), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), S Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), J Hook (Ospreys), A Williams (Newport Gwent Dragons), W Fury (London Irish), G Cooper (Gloucester).
Forwards: Duncan Jones (Ospreys), G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), A Jones (Ospreys), R Thomas (Newport Gwent Dragons), M Rees (Llanelli Scarlets), H Bennett (Ospreys), I Gough (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), I Evans (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), J Thomas (Ospreys), Dafydd Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), G Delve (Gloucester), R Jones (Ospreys, capt).