Henry Thomas believes he remains eligible for Wales for the 2024 Six Nations despite agreeing to remain at Montpellier on a short-term deal.
Wales’ World Cup prop has returned to his French club as temporary cover while players recover from Test duty.
Under current rules, only uncapped players or those with at least 25 caps can represent Wales after signing for a team outside the country.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m still eligible,” said the 32-year-old.
“This was all agreed beforehand under my previous contact. All the talk has been around, being able to do both, club and country.”
Thomas’ deal, he says, is effectively an extension of his previous contract so he would be able to continue playing for Wales, as he did at the World Cup.
However that did not come without controversy, or confusion.
In February the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) lowered the threshold for those players based outside of Wales to represent their country, from 60 caps to 25.
Thomas was exempt from any restrictions because he was uncapped by Wales, as is the case with centre Max Llewellyn following his move from Cardiff to Gloucester.
However the likes of centre Joe Hawkins (four caps), full-back or fly-half Rhys Patchell (22 caps) and outside-half Jarrod Evans (eight caps) are all no longer eligible after opting to move outside of Wales.
Thomas has been with Montpellier since 2021, winning the French title a year later, but his decision to play for Wales this summer led director of rugby Philippe Saint-Andre to threaten to terminate his contract.
Now he has returned as a temporary “medical joker” to cover shortages in the Montpellier squad, appearing as a replacement at the weekend against Begles-Bordeaux.
“Thankfully the president [Lorent Nicollin] stepped in and helped me out because he knew I loved playing here,” said Thomas.
“Initially it’s short-term, but it’s pretty open-ended. What happens after the next few months remains up in the air.
“That uncertainty is not ideal, but I guess I made my bed when I decided to play for Wales and have a crack at getting to the World Cup.
“That was something I just couldn’t turn away from and I loved the experience.”
Thomas’ future will also rest upon whether Warren Gatland still wants him.
The former England prop, who qualifies for Wales through his Swansea-born father, became the first male player to represent both countries.
He made his Wales debut in the summer friendly against England however a hamstring complaint limited his role at the World Cup to two appearances off the bench.
“I had a conversation with [forwards coach] Jonathan Humphreys after the World Cup which was generally positive,” said Thomas.
“If I’m still wanted by Wales then I may have some big decisions to make over the coming months. However right now, it’s hard to second guess anything.”
Thomas was unavailable for Saturday’s friendly against Barbarians which was played outside of World Rugby’s international window, but has one eye on the Six Nations.
“I really enjoyed the World Cup, but of course I would have liked to have played more,” he said.
“I was really worried I may be sent home after being unavailable for the Fiji and Portugal games so it was a relief to play against Australia and Georgia after so much hard work and training.
“I was great to be a part of that win over Australia, but I was really disappointed to miss out on the quarter-final.”
SOURCE : www.bbc.co.uk