Rugby Union: Heads roll as Henry rings the changes

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The Independent Online
ARWEL THOMAS and Garin Jenkins, the two unexpected omissions from the Welsh squad, have been urged not to give up hope despite not being picked to face the world champions, South Africa.

The new Wales coach, Graham Henry, has made some surprise omissions from a 26-man selection for the Test on 14 November against Gary Teich-mann's Tri-Nations winners at Wembley. The no-nonsense New Zealander snubbed the stand-off Thomas, hooker Jenkins, the centre Leigh Davies and the flanker Kingsley Jones - all regular starters under his predecessor, Kevin Bowring. Jones captained Wales in their last international.

There are call-ups for the uncapped lock Chay Billen (Ebbw Vale) and the No 8 Geraint Lewis (Pontypridd), who made his Wales debut as a replacement at Loftus Versfeld.

But Henry's compatriot, Swansea's New Zealander coach John Plumtree, believes the talented All Whites pair - 58 caps between them - must not lose heart. "Arwel knows what he has got to do towards improving his game, and I am sure he will feature with Graham Henry sooner, rather than later," he said.

Thomas misses out behind his stand-off rivals Neil Jenkins and Byron Hayward, Henry having publicly questioned his defensive qualities at Test match level. "Like others from the Southern Hemisphere, I have wondered about Arwel's defence at this level and I am still wondering," said Henry after the second Welsh trial.

Off the pitch, the Welsh Rugby Union general committee was expected to impose sanctions on the rebel clubs Swansea and Cardiff last night.

They have refused to sign 10-year WRU loyalty agreements, and last week announced their withdrawal from the Premier Division in favour of friendlies against England's leading 14 clubs.

WALES SQUAD (v South Africa, Wembley, 14 November): Backs: K Morgan (Pontypridd), G Thomas (Cardiff), D James (Pontypridd), W Proctor (Llanelli), A Bateman (Richmond), S Gibbs (Swansea), M Taylor (Swansea), N Jenkins (Pontypridd), B Hayward (Ebbw Vale), R Howley (Cardiff, capt), P John (Pontypridd). Forwards: A Lewis (Cardiff), C Anthony (Swansea), D Young (Cardiff), B Williams (Richmond), C Billen (Ebbw Vale), M Jones (Ebbw Vale), I Gough (Pontypridd), M Voyle (Llanelli), A Moore (Swansea), M Williams (Pontypridd), C Charvis (Swansea), G Lewis (Pontypridd), N Thomas (Bath), S Davies (Swansea), S Quinnell (Richmond).

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