Thomas can lead Lions

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The Independent Online

Gareth Thomas, the Wales captain, has emerged as a leading contender to captain the British and Irish Lions on their 11-match tour of New Zealand next summer, after the coach, Sir Clive Woodward, gave the Toulouse winger a ringing endorsement yesterday.

Gareth Thomas, the Wales captain, has emerged as a leading contender to captain the British and Irish Lions on their 11-match tour of New Zealand next summer, after the coach, Sir Clive Woodward, gave the Toulouse winger a ringing endorsement yesterday.

Woodward spent a week observing Wales' preparations for their test against the All Blacks and said: "Gareth Thomas stood out, with his leadership and captaincy. He is a special player." When pushed harder on the Lions captaincy issue Woodward admitted that Thomas "is a definite contender".

But there are others in the running as well, including Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell. The England stand-in captain Jason Robinson is another possibility, as is Jonny Wilkinson, who is on target to return to action this weekend after being given the all-clear on his bicep injury. Scotland pair Gordon Bulloch and Simon Taylor can also be added to that list.

Woodward insisted the choice would be a collective decision, involving all the coaching staff. He announced he would be selecting his squad from those players involved in the Six Nations Championship, although he added: "No one is going to come in from outside that selection criterion unless there is a compelling reason to bring someone in."

Leicester yesterday parted company with Steve Booth, after the injury-prone winger suffered a further long-term injury - this time to a foot. Booth, 28, arrived at Welford Road in 2000, played 71 games and scored 194 points, including 26 tries.

The New Zealand captain, Tana Umaga, has become the first All Black to receive the Pierre de Coubertin Trophy for fair play for his actions during a Test match between New Zealand and Wales last year. During the game Umaga went to the aid of Colin Charvis, who had been knocked unconscious in a tackle by Jerry Collins, while play continued. Others to receive theaward include Arthur Ashe, Sir Bobby Charlton, Martina Navratilova and Sergei Bubka.

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