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Wales coaches looking for Judgement Day talent

Jonathan Thomas in action for the Ospreys

Wales coaches looking for Judgement Day talent

Among the tens of thousands of on-lookers at Judgement Day will be a group of coaches with a special remit.

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Jonathan Thomas, the Wales contact area coach, will be among the Wales national squad back room staff in attendance and the whole occasion will take him back to the inaugural Judgement Day event in 2013, when he was in an Ospreys side that saw off Cardiff Blues.

His task today will be to run the rule over potential World Cup candidates and to check on the form and fitness of those players who served Warren Gatland during the Six Nations campaign.

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“By their own admission, all four regions have had difficult seasons, although there have been reasons to be optimistic in recent months with the Ospreys beating Montpellier and Leicester Tigers in the Champions Cup, Cardiff Rugby overcoming Sale Sharks in the Challenge Cup and the Scarlets moving into the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup,” said Thomas.

“Judgement Day is very important for the regions and their players and it is obviously a huge year for the players given we are going to the World Cup in France in October.

“Warren said during the Six Nations he was going to give opportunities to players to showcase what they could do. It is going to be the same at Judgement Day.

“Warren has previous knowledge of a lot of the players at the regions, but we are always on the look out for other players to push their credentials. That’s why Judgement Day is so important.

“This is one of the biggest chances anyone who has World Cup ambitions to push themselves forward. For the younger players it is going to be an amazing experience.”

Thomas himself forced his way into the frame for the first of his two World Cup tournaments back in 2003, winning his first cap in the summer warm-up matches 20 years ago.

“There will be a few bolters and what we need to find out is if players are fit for purpose to play at international level,” he added.

“The World Cup is the pinnacle for any player, and I have some wonderful memories from 2003.”

He also has fond memories of playing at the Ospreys for a decade during the ‘Galacticos’ era. He then went on to end his career in the English Premiership before stepping into coaching at Bristol Bears and then Worcester Warriors.

He was brought into the Welsh fold by Gatland ahead of the Six Nations and is relishing the opportunity to be back on the international stage in his new guise.

There are still a few players around today who featured in the first Judgement Day matches when Thomas made his final club appearance at Principality Stadium. Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Scott Baldwin and Rhys Webb were all on the Ospreys team with him, while Rhys Patchell, Lloyd Williams, Leigh Halfpenny and Kristian Dacey were all in the Cardiff Blues ranks.

“I had mixed feelings about taking the derby matches to the Principality Stadium because they were always the biggest games we had at our home venues, but the event has grown since 2013 and is now a major date in the calendar,” said Thomas.

“It was an idea launched on the back of what had been happening in the English Premiership. When we played the Blues, both teams were in a period of transition but were still the top two teams in Wales.

“That added to the rivalry and in those days the games against the Blues were very much on a par with the traditional derbies against the Scarlets. I really enjoyed the day and it will be good to be back.”

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