Warren Gatland explains Wyn Jones omission from Wales’ preliminary 54-man squad

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.

Wales Preliminary Rugby World Cup 2023 Squad Announcement – Vale Resort – Monday 1st May
Wales head coach Warren Gatland suggested that his side needed greater mobility in the front row than Wyn Jones could offer (Ben Birchall/PA)

“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.

“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.”

Seven-cap England tighthead prop Henry Thomas, who plays for France’s Top 14 champions Montpellier, was the surprise inclusion in a squad to be cut to 33 ahead of the World Cup in September.

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.

Rugby Union – 2015 RBS Six Nations – Ireland v England – England Training Session – Pennyhill Park Hotel
Seven-times capped England prop Henry Thomas has been named in Wales’ preliminary World Cup squad (Mike Egerton/PA)

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.”

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