So the 30 men to carry the hopes of the Welsh nation – or at least the rugby-loving part – into next month’s World Cup have been chosen.
There are no great surprises and once it became clear that Gavin Henson wouldn’t make it into the final squad the big debating point revolved around the captaincy.
The honour will go to Grand Slam winning skipper Gareth Thomas, recently moved from Toulose to Cardiff Blues, who is chosen ahead of Stephen Jones mainly due to on-going fitness worries surrounding the fly-half. The fact that Jones is under serious pressure for his place from James Hook is undoubtedly a factor as well.
Welsh coach Gareth Jenkins revealed that the captain will be supported by a “leadership group” of Alun Wyn-Jones, Michael Owen, Jon Thomas, Dwayne Peel and Jones himself. Why?
There is plenty of experience within the squad as it is without resorting to captaincy by committee. The likes of Kevin Morgan, Tom Shanklin, Duncan Jones and Martyn Williams could all lay claim to be natural-born leaders too, so singling out five for the leadership group seems quite a strange move.
The strength of the Grand Slam winning squad lay in the leadership of Thomas on and off the field, backed up by Owen once the captain was ruled out by injury. Both were ably supported by the rest of the squad and key individuals (without the need to single any of them out).
Picking a captain and five deputies might lead to speculation that the unity that characterised the Grand Slam season is still absent and a long way from being resurrected.
The national squad self-destructed after the Grand Slam for a variety of reasons. The talent that brought an undefeated season is still undoubtedly there, but the team spirit still appears lacking.
Maybe picking half a dozen to act as designated leaders is the way forward? But maybe it also shows a lack of confidence in one man to bring the rest of the 29 together?
I hope the decision proves to be a masterstroke and Wales recaptures the form and the spirit that delivered the Grand Slam.
For the record, the 30 men in red will be:
Backs: Gareth Cooper, James Hook, Dafydd James, Mark Jones, Stephen Jones, Kevin Morgan, Sonny Parker, Dwayne Peel, Mike Phillips, Jamie Robinson, Tom Shanklin, Ceri Sweeney, Gareth Thomas (capt), Shane Williams.
Forwards: Huw Bennett, Colin Charvis, Ian Evans, Ian Gough, Chris Horsman, Will James, Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Duncan Jones, Alun-Wyn Jones, Michael Owen, Alix Popham, Matthew Rees, Jonathan Thomas, T Rhys Thomas, Martyn Williams.