Gareth Thomas: World Cup the perfect platform for Wales' unsung heroes
9:02am Friday 4th October 2013 in Wales rugby
GARETH Thomas believes a World Cup on home soil presents Wales' rugby league players with a golden opportunity to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Iestyn Harris, Lee Briers and Scott Quinnell.
Monday's announcement of the Wales squad for this month's tournament was notable for the absence of former union star Andy Powell rather than the names of those that made the cut.
The 23-man squad may not possess any megastars but a raft of Welshmen are thriving in the Super League.
Wigan's Ben Flower and Gil Dudson will attempt to add the title to their Challenge Cup winners medals tomorrow while 12 of their international teammates are in rugby league's top flight.
Thomas, who captained Wales and the Lions in union, played alongside Flower, Dudson, the Warriors' Rhodri Lloyd and Widnes' Lloyd White for the Crusaders in the Super League between 2010 and 2011.
And he believes the World Cup, which starts at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, October 26, is a chance for them to catch the eye.
"They are awesome boys and are doing so well in the Super League," said Thomas, who won 100 caps in the 15-a-side game.
"They might not be known outside rugby league circles but this is the platform for them to make themselves known and possibly become the next Iestyn Harris, Lee Briers or Scott Quinnell.
"This is a great opportunity for them because I think that Wales can do well in the tournament.
"If the rugby union World Cup was here then the team would be under so much pressure because so many people expect so much from them.
"Because the rugby league boys are not stars or household names yet – and hopefully they will be after the tournament – they can just go out there and play.
"The World Cup is a major sporting event taking place right on our doorstep. This is a real opportunity for the team to make the Welsh public stand up and take notice of what they are doing."
Wales open the tournament against Italy at a Millennium Stadium double-header, taking to the turf in the capital after favourites Australia take on England.
They then play fixtures against the USA in Wrexham on Sunday, November 3 and the Cook Islands in Neath on Sunday, November 10 before the knockout stages.
- Thomas was speaking at the announcement of Wooden Spoon, the children's charity of rugby, as the official charity partner for Rugby League World Cup 2013. To find out more about the charity visit woodenspoon.com.
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