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Thomas Will Tour With Wales

Thomas Will Tour With Wales

Fears that Welsh full-back Gareth Thomas would miss the summer tour to Argentina and South Africa have been dispelled and the new Toulouse signing will travel with the squad.

Wales full-back Gareth Thomas was yesterday (Thursday) ruled out of his side’s opening Test against Argentina next month but coach Mike Ruddock is hopeful Thomas could play in the other tour matches.

Thomas, the record Welsh try-scorer injured his ankle during the side’s
rout of the Barbarians in Bristol on Wednesday.

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Initial indications were that Thomas could be sidelined for three
an absence that would see him miss Wales’s three-match tour and put
at risk
his move to French giants and European Cup finalists Toulouse.

However Wales coach Ruddock said yesterday, “I feared the
worst at
first, like everyone else. It is 99.9 percent certain Gareth will
miss the
first Test against Argentina, he could make the second one and
hopefully be
available for the third match against the Springboks.”

Ruddock, for whom the match was his first in charge since
succeeding Steve
Hansen, added: “He will see our medical team a bit later, but he
definitely go on tour.

Meanwhile, French hooker Olivier Azam has signed up
for a
second spell with Gloucester after spending the season with

The 29-year-old, who played for Gloucester between 2000 and 2003,
his back on offers from several other English Premiership clubs and
agreed a
three-year contract after meeting club chairman Tom Walkinshaw.

Azam, described by England hooker Steve Thompson as his toughest
in the Premiership, will forge an all-international front row
alongside World
Cup winner Phil Vickery and Springbok Christo Bezuidenhout.
“I can’t wait to get back to Gloucester. I’m certainly happy
to be
returning in a Gloucester shirt rather than for an opposing
team,” said the

“For me the stability and quality of the squad was key.
Gloucester have one
of the strongest squads and set-ups in the Premiership and

Azam, who won the last of his 10 caps against Australia in 2002,
made a
substantial impact during his first spell at Kingsholm and director
of rugby
Nigel Melville admitted he was delighted by the Frenchman’s return.
“We’ve worked hard to bring Olivier back to Kingsholm. He’s a
individual that will add to our forward options for the new
season,” he said.

Azam’s decision to return to England was no doubt influenced by Montferrand’s failure to win the Challenge Cup, a loss that denied the French side a place in next season’s Heineken Cup.

London Wasps centre Mark Denney will leave
the new
European Cup champions at the end of the season after signing with
Olympique of France on a two-year deal.

Denney becomes the second Wasps player to join the French side
after Paul
confirmed he would also be joining them during the off-season.

Denney, a Cambridge Blue and a qualified lawyer, has enjoyed a
time at Wasps club since joining midway through season 1997-98.
He captained the side on a number of occasions and has played more
than 150
games for the club.
“I’m looking for a new challenge and France offers it. I’ve
signed a
two-year deal and Paul and I will join up with them in June,”
the 29-year-old

AFP – 2004.