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Last Updated: Monday, 26 February 2007, 11:12 GMT
Shanklin welcomes Thomas return
Wales backs Gareth Thomas and Tom Shanklin
Gareth Thomas (left) is available for Wales after a four-week ban
Wales back Tom Shanklin says the return of Gareth Thomas will give them the extra edge needed to claim a first win in this season's RBS Six Nations.

Toulouse three-quarter Thomas missed through suspension Wales' losses to Ireland, Scotland and an encouraging 32-21 defeat in France on Saturday.

But the ex-Wales captain is available for the trip to Italy in a fortnight.

"We've got Gareth back and hopefully he'll be a big factor in turning losses into a win," Shanklin said.

"He's got a big presence about him, he's a good talker, he's a good leader and he's a big lump as well.

"That will add a little bit of bulk and experience to the team, and with the Italians being very physical it's the sort of game suited to Gareth."

Thomas was found guilty of "aggressively attempting to enter one of the seating areas" during his French side's Heineken Cup win over Ulster.

We should be confident of beating Italy, although we've also lost there before

Tom Shanklin

The 32-year-old was handed a 5,000 fine and a four-week ban for that offence.

The Wales camp will spend the early part of this week assessing injury problems with wing Mark Jones and prop Chris Horsman.

Jones went off with bruised ribs and Horsman twisted an ankle on Saturday.

Wales coach Gareth Jenklins has been hampered by a lack of strength in depth, especially in the backline.

That means Thomas is likely to make a swift return to the Wales 22 for the match at the Stadio Flaminio on 10 March.

Italy stunned Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday, winning 37-17 helped by an early charge-down try and two interception scores to record their first ever away success in the championship.

"It was a great result for Italy, they have this blitz defence where they rush up quickly and Scotland fell into the trap," Shanklin said.

"We've got to take lessons from that to ensure we don't slip up the same way.

"With the players we've got and the big improvement in performance we had against France, we should be confident of beating Italy - although we've also lost there before."

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