June International Tours

Thomas optimistic about Australia tour


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Wales captain Gareth Thomas insists his side are capable competing with Australia ahead of their two-Test series despite resources being at full stretch.

Thomas will lead a party minus eighteen front-line players, who are being left at home to rest before joining up with the squad for the two Wallaby clashes on May 26 in Sydney and a week later in Brisbane.

But despite being without the likes of Stephen Jones, Dwayne Peel and Ryan Jones, Thomas insists the 28-man squad are not going to be lambs to the slaughter.

”Okay, there are a lot of players missing, and to be honest that probably decreases our chances, but because the players who are on the tour come in with enthusiasm and excitement then that re-ignites our chances,” said Thomas.

”I’m not going to be part of a team that goes to Australia thinking that anything less than a hiding is good. I want to go there to enjoy the experience and if winning comes with it then great.

”For me it’s a chance to get the squad not focused on the World Cup but on winning two Tests in Australia.

”Everybody outside is going to be looking at the bigger picture so I see it as leading a lot of young, talented, committed guys who will be good in the future, performing for each other rather than looking at the World Cup.

”And hopefully they can make the coach’s decision more difficult when it does come to selection.”

Though Wales’ chances have been written off the tour party does contain six British Lions, 15 players who have won more than 20 caps – two of which have 80-plus (Thomas and Colin Charvis).

But coach Gareth Jenkins has already suffered three withdrawals from the tour – Newport Gwent Dragons prop Rhys Thomas (ankle) and Scarlets wing Dafydd James (knee) have been ruled out, as has Hal Luscombe for personal reasons.

Thomas has been replaced by regional team-mate Jamie Corsi, while James makes way for Ospreys centre Sonny Parker. Luscombe’s spot has yet to be filled.

”We are going to look at some rugby on the weekend before we make the final call. It will be a back three player we are looking for,” confirmed Jenkins.

”It’s been a particularly tough end to the season in the Magners League. We have been supportive of the Welsh regions. We had to cancel a training week this week and that has put pressure on us. We are going to have two sessions on Tuesday before we fly out.

”It’s not an easy time watching rugby at the moment. I’m finding myself watching with my fingers crossed hoping there are no more injuries.”

Jenkins’ preparations have been further hampered by the fact six Dragons squad members will not be available until three days before the first Test because of the region’s Heineken Cup play-off game on Friday week.

Wales fly out to Australia on Tuesday but the likes of Charvis and Michael Owen will not follow until six days later and will not be able to train until 48 hours later because of jet-lag protocol.

”It’s not ideal preparation to play a Test match in a country that is hard to win in, but I’m comfortable with the strength and quality of the squad and I’m sure the team that I will pick eventually will be competitive,” said Jenkins.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that Wales v Australia matches will, from now on, be played for the James Bevan Trophy.

Bevan, who was Australian-born, captained Wales in their inaugural international against England in 1881.


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