- 16 Sep 07, 03:26 PM
Cardiff - When Gareth Thomas, dazed and damaged, was helped off the Millennium Stadium pitch on Saturday it may have been the last time we will see him on the international stage.
'Alfie' as he is more often known (after a puppet character from a children's television series) announced at the beginning of this year that he would "probably" retire from Test rugby after the World Cup.
Although the 33-year-old has avoided any lasting injury to his shoulder, he has damaged rib cartilage and will undergo a scan on Tuesday to see if he will be able to play any further part in the tournament, whenever that may come for a Wales side outclassed by Australia in their Pool B crunch in Cardiff.
His finale, if that's what it turns out to be, was less than memorable: the full-back wayward with his kicking before earning the ire of Wallaby fans for a late tackle on rookie fly-half Berrick Barnes - an offence that Thomas could yet be cited for.
A challenge from Stirling Mortlock ended Thomas' match on 22 minutes as the Cardiff Blue was helped on his way to the treatment room.
Thomas earned his 99th Wales cap on Saturday, although he also has three for the Lions, and it may be that the lure of reaching that magical ton for his country could persuade him to play on at Test level for one more season.
Whether it would be wise, or satisfactory, to play on with the prime aim of reaching that landmark is debatable.
If Thomas already had it in his mind to concentrate on domestic rugby with his new region, then it would be a hard decision to reverse that mindset.
But on the physical side there has been little evidence this season that Thomas' playing powers are on the wane, although obviously he no longer possesses the pace of his prime.
His ability to play anywhere along the three-quarter line or at full-back is invaluable to a coaching staff trying to find the right combination or juggling with injuries during a match.
The inspiration he brings to the Wales squad will also be hard to replace because Alfie, as the saying goes, 'is a character' who has stamped his mark on the game.
Sometimes that has been for the good, while sometimes the maverick side of the big man from Ogwr has taken over.
Share your thoughts on Thomas and let us know if he should continue in Test rugby, or how much of a loss - if any - you think he will be to the Wales team.
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