Warren Gatland has revealed Wyn Jones’ shock omission from his preliminary World Cup training squad was down to Wales seeking greater front-row mobility.
Jones has gone from British and Irish Test Lion to Wales outcast in under two years, with Gatland suggesting that the Scarlets prop is a victim of the changing nature of international rugby.
The 31-year-old Jones – who started the Lions’ Test decider against South Africa in August 2021 – failed to make Gatland’s preliminary 54-man squad, with Cardiff’s uncapped Corey Domachowski among the preferred options at loosehead.
“There is no doubt he has had some injuries,” Wales head coach Gatland said of the 48-times capped Jones.
“Leading up to 2021 he was in outstanding form and playing well, we are just looking for some competition and a little bit more mobility in that position.
“We are looking for guys winning collisions and having that work-rate around the field we think is important at this level.
“There is no doubt the game has changed. The number of scrums is nowhere near as many as they used to be so you need to have a front five, particularly front rowers, that can scrummage but can get around the park.
“They have got to contribute a huge amount in terms of their mobility.
🏴 𝐕𝐈𝐕𝐄 𝐋𝐄 𝐂𝐘𝐌𝐑𝐔 🏴
🟡 Your RWC preliminary training squad 👇
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏴 (@WelshRugbyUnion) May 1, 2023
“That’s a big part we need to improve and was an area that when we reflected back and reviewed the Six Nations was probably our biggest work on in terms of moving forward.”
Thomas, who has played for Sale and Bath in the Gallagher Premiership, was last capped by England in 2014 and has served World Rugby’s stand down period of three years to represent another country.
Fellow forwards Cory Hill, currently playing in Japan, and Will Rowlands were named in a squad featuring 10 uncapped players.
Rowlands is two appearances short of meeting Wales’ 25-cap criteria for those playing outside the country, something which does not affect Thomas as he is currently under contract at Montpellier.
The second-row forward is leaving Dragons for Paris-based Racing 92 next season, but Wales have three Tests before the World Cup in August. Rowlands’ registration will remain in Wales during the summer.
Exeter-bound centre Joe Hawkins, who has won five caps since making his debut in November, is ineligible, however, following his move from Ospreys.
Wales’ World Cup pool consists of Australia, Fiji, Georgia and Portugal, and Gatland expects improved fitness levels after a disappointing Six Nations campaign that brought only one win against Italy.
He said: “We were reasonable but not anywhere near as good as we were in the past. That’s something we pride ourselves on in terms of playing for 80 minutes and not going away.
“You’ve seen that in the past and it’s something I’ll definitely be focusing on.”