Thomas delight as 100 comes into sight

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The Independent Online

Gareth Thomas said Saturday will be the proudest day of his life if Wales can mark his 100th cap with a victory over Fiji to secure a place in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Thomas will become the first Welshman to win 100 Test caps and he joins a club of only eight international players to have achieved the feat. The 100 club is headed by Australia scrum-half George Gregan, who has a world record 137 caps, and includes Fabien Pelous, Jason Leonard, Phillippe Sella, Stephen Larkham, David Campese and Alessandro Troncon.

Less than two weeks ago Thomas was fearing he could be stuck on 99 forever after suffering rib cartilage damage in Wales' defeat to Australia that threatened to rule him out of the tournament. But he has made a remarkable recovery and replaces Kevin Morgan at full-back for the match against Fiji, where a quarter-final tie against South Africa is on the line.

"I feel that a win on Saturday, with the occasion it is then for me, would be the proudest day of my life and I want it to a proud occasion not just for me but for the boys and the management team around me as well," said Thomas. "It's a huge achievement that I'm really proud to get. I didn't realise that one cap was a possibility. I didn't realise that 10 caps was a possibility. There's been times that I played games that I didn't really deserve.

"For me it just kept coming and coming, getting closer and closer and the reason why I feel I got it is because I never searched for it and never wanted it as a personal goal. It's just something that has arrived.

"On days when you achieve such great things as I feel this is, you must remain true to yourself. In the build-up to Saturday it will be exciting for me and after the game I will probably be more excited and still thinking about the achievement.

"During the game it's never about me and never will be about me, it will always be about the team."

Thomas' Test debut came at the 1995 World Cup and he marked the occasion with a hat-trick of tries against Japan. Thomas developed a reputation for being a maverick in his early years but emerged in Steve Hansen's reign as one of Wales' senior players.

Thomas was appointed Wales captain by Mike Ruddock and led the side into the 2005 Grand Slam. Later that year he replaced injured Brian O'Driscoll as the Lions captain.

The new head coach Gareth Jenkins appointed Stephen Jones as his captain but turned to Thomas for the summer tour of Australia and the World Cup.

Jenkins believes Thomas is playing better now, at his fourth World Cup, than at any time in the past 12 years. "Gareth's importance to this team cannot be understated," he said. "He's a really special guy and he has earned the right to get where he is."

Wales line-up to face Fiji on Saturday

G Thomas (Cardiff Blues, capt); M Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), J Hook (Ospreys), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), D Peel (Llanelli Scarlets); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), M Rees (Llanelli Scarlets), C Horsman (Worcester), AW Jones (Ospreys), I Evans (Ospreys), C Charvis (Newport Gwent Dragons), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), A Popham (Llanelli Scarlets). Replacements: TR Thomas (Cardiff Blues), D Jones (Ospreys), I Gough (Ospreys), M Owen (Newport Gwent Dragons), M Phillips (Ospreys), J Robinson (Cardiff Blues), D James (Llanelli Scarlets).