Wales coach Gareth Jenkins today named his 41-man preliminary Rugby World Cup 2007 summer training squad.
Jenkins has predicted that cutting the group to just 30 players by the 14th August RWC deadline will be the hardest selection decision of his career. The squad is made up of members of the Australian tour party and those who remained in Wales for a summer training camp. The penultimate squad includes 19 backs and 22 forwards before the final World Cup cut. There are eight Cardiff Blues players named in this preliminary squad, including find of the season, Tom James.
The current group will next train together as one unit at the end of June - when the Australian tourists return from a three week break - and will embark on a week-long training camp in Nantes from 21st July.
They then form the Wales side travelling to Twickenham to take on England on 4th August before Jenkins trims his troops to 30 in advance of clashes with Argentina and France in the Invesco Perpetual Summer Series at the Millennium Stadium on 18th and 26th August.
"I've no doubt that trimming this group of players down to a 30-man Rugby World Cup squad will be the hardest selection decision I've ever had to make as a coach - but it's a challenge I relish."
Jenkins has named two uncapped players in the squad - 30-year-old Gloucester specialist second row Will James and Cardiff Blues wing Thomas James, who impressed on the training pitch as a tourist in Australia.
Lock James, who has also played Heineken Cup rugby for Pontypridd, has been under Jenkins' watchful eye whilst plying his trade in the English Premiership.
"There are players in this squad who have forced themselves into contention after stepping up to the task presented to them in Australia and there are a couple of people who still need the opportunity to show us what they have to offer. added Jenkins.
"We will be fine-tuning our selection over the coming weeks and are confident we have the breadth of talent and ability within this squad to come out with a team to be competitive against any World Cup opponent.
"We are developing a group of leaders within the squad and will look at the captaincy in closer detail when the final 30 is announced.
"We are going to need more than one leader on the pitch over the course of the tournament, as well as during the coming summer series and we are fortunate to have a number of suitable candidates for the job."
BACKS: Aled Brew, Lee Byrne, Gareth Cooper, Gavin Evans, Gavin Henson, James Hook, Dafydd James, Thomas James, Mark Jones, Stephen Jones, Kevin Morgan, Sonny Parker, Dwayne Peel, Mike Phillips, Jamie Robinson, Tom Shanklin, Ceri Sweeney, Gareth Thomas, Shane Williams.
FORWARDS: Huw Bennett, Colin Charvis, Ian Evans, Ian Gough, Richard Hibbard, Chris Horsman, Will James, Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Duncan Jones, Alun-Wyn Jones, Ryan Jones, Michael Owen, Alix Popham, Matthew Rees, Rob Sidoli, Gavin Thomas, Iestyn Thomas, Jonathan Thomas, Rhys Thomas, T Rhys Thomas, Martyn Williams.
WALES - BACKS
Thomas JAMES (CARDIFF BLUES)
DoB: 17.04.87. 6'2"/1.87m. 15st 1lb/96kg
International record: Uncapped
Jamie ROBINSON (CARDIFF BLUES)
DoB: 07.04.80. 6'2" / 1.88m. 15st 0lbs / 95kgs
International record: 20 caps (W 6, L 14; 35 pts - 7T)
Tom SHANKLIN (CARDIFF BLUES)
DoB: 24.11.79. 6'2" / 1.88m. 15st 9lbs / 99kgs
International record: 40 caps (W 17, L 22, D 1; 85 pts - 17T)
Gareth THOMAS (CARDIFF BLUES *)
DoB: 25.07.74. 6'2" / 1.88m. 16st 2lbs / 102kgs
International record: 94 caps (W 49, L 44, D 1; 190 pts - 38T)
WALES - FORWARDS
Gethin JENKINS (CARDIFF BLUES)
DoB: 17.11.80. 6'2" / 1.88m. 18st 9lbs / 118kgs
International record: 45 caps (W 17, L 26, D 2; 15 pts - 3T)
Robert SIDOLI (CARDIFF BLUES)
DoB: 21.06.79. 6'6" / 1.99m. 18st 13lbs / 120kgs
International record: 41 caps (W 17, L 23, D 1; 10 pts - 2T)
Thomas Rhys THOMAS (CARDIFF BLUES)
DoB: 23.04.82. 6'0" / 1.83m. 16st 8lbs / 105kgs
International record: 19 caps (W 8, L 10, D 1)
Martyn WILLIAMS (CARDIFF BLUES)
DoB: 01.09.75. 6'0" / 1.83m. 15st 13lbs / 101kgs
International record: 70 caps (W 30, L 37, D 3; 53 pts - 10T, 1DG)
* Denotes the team a player will be representing next season following a close season transfer.
Pre-World Cup Games
England v Wales 4th August
Wales v Argentina 18th August
Wales v France 26th August