Veteran leads Dragons charge

Gareth Thomas will captain Wales for the first time since returning from a nine-month absence from Test rugby.

With Stephen Jones failing to recover from a knee injury sustained against Australia two weeks ago, the mantel was passed to Thomas, who suffered a mini-stroke shortly after the Six Nations this year.

The 32-year-old, who also shifts from wing to fullback, has since made a full recovery, and got a vote of confidence from his coach Gareth Jenkins.

“Gareth needs more game time and with Stephen injured he is the ideal person to come in and captain the side as we try to lay down a World Cup marker with Canada,” Jenkins told BBC Sport.

Mark Jones takes Thomas’ place on the wing while Dwyane Peel and James Hook comprise the halfback pair, and Gavin Henson and Tom Shanklin line up in midfield.

“Mark Jones retains his place on the wing and has another opportunity to show what he can do after having an impressive performance against the Pacific Islanders,” Jenkins said, before stressing that the regular rotation of his side was done with a view to selecting the best possible team for their Test against New Zealand next Saturday.

“Ceri Sweeney also went well at fly-half last week, but we felt Hook would benefit from another 80 minutes or so at international level, plus we get another chance to assess how he fits into the set-up.

“We have selected a side to beat Canada and there are other players in the squad who may yet come into the equation as the shadow of the New Zealand match looms over us.

“We had a healthy debate this week about selection and are another step closer to finding the 22 players who will represent Wales against All Blacks.”

Wales: 15 G Thomas, 14 M Jones, 13 T Shanklin, 12 G Henson, 11 S Williams, 10 J Hook, 9 D Peel, 8 R Jones, 7 M Williams, 6 J Thomas, 5 I Evans, 4 I Gough, 3 A Jones, 2 M Rees,1 G Jenkins
Replacements: 16 R Thomas, 17 D Jones, 18 R Sidoli, 19 AW Jones, 20 M Phillips, 21 C Sweeney, 22 S Parker