Warren Gatland revealed that the shock omission of Wyn Jones from his World Cup preliminary training squad was due to Wales looking for more front-row mobility.
Jones has gone from British and Irish Test Lion to Welsh pariah in less than two years, and Gatland suggests the Scarlets mainstay is a victim of the changing nature of international rugby.
Jones, 31, who started the Lions’ Test decider against South Africa in August 2021, failed to make Gatland’s 54-man preliminary squad, with Cardiff’s uncapped Corey Domachowski among the preferred options in the loose head.
“There’s no question he’s had some injuries,” Wales head coach Gatland said of Jones, who has capped 48 times.
“Through 2021 he was in great shape and playing well, we’re just looking for some competition and a little more mobility in that position.
“We’re looking for guys who win collisions and have that work rate on the field that we think is important at this level.
“There is no doubt that the game has changed. The number of scrums is not as high as it used to be, so you need to have five forwards, particularly front rowers, who can scrum but can move around the park.
“They have to contribute a lot in terms of mobility.
“That’s a big part that we need to improve on and it was an area where, when we reflected and reviewed the Six Nations, it was probably our biggest work in terms of moving forward.”
Seven-capped England right-hand prop Henry Thomas, who plays for France’s Top 14 champions Montpellier, was the surprise inclusion in a squad that will be reduced to 33 ahead of the World Cup in September.
Thomas, who played for Sale and Bath in the Gallagher Premiership, was last capped for England in 2014 and served a three-year World Rugby rest period to represent another country.
Fellow forwards Cory Hill, who currently plays in Japan, and Will Rowlands were named to a 10-man unlimited squad.
Rowlands is two caps short of meeting Wales’ 25 cap criteria for those playing outside the country, something that doesn’t affect Thomas as he is currently under contract at Montpellier.
The second-string striker will leave Dragons for Paris-based Racing 92 next season, but Wales have three Tests before the World Cup in August. The Rowlands registry will remain in Wales for the summer.
However, center Joe Hawkins, who is heading to Exeter and has won five caps since making his debut in November, is ineligible following his move from the Ospreys.
Wales’ World Cup group consists of Australia, Fiji, Georgia and Portugal, and Gatland will be hoping to improve fitness levels after a disappointing Six Nations campaign that brought just one win against Italy.
He said: “We were reasonable, but not as good as in the past. That’s something we pride ourselves on in terms of playing for 80 minutes and not disappearing.
“You’ve seen it in the past and it’s something I’ll definitely focus on.”