As Tom Shanklin retires from rugby, our Sports Correspondent Richard Morgan remembers the career of a player who was a byword for consistency…
The statistics say it all: 70 Wales caps and 20 international tries; two Grand Slams; a Lions tour to New Zealand. And had ‘Shanks’ not spent so much time on the sidelines (often with the knee troubles that eventually finished his career off) he would surely have finished up a lot closer to the 100 cap mark being approached by his mates Stephen Jones and Martyn Williams.
The son of 70’s Wales international Jim, Shanklin emerged on the scene as Welsh rugby was lurching through one of its dark periods.
First capped on the 2001 tour of Japan, he featured in the squad that endured the ignominy of the 2003 wooden spoon, before playing his part in Wales’ renaissance at the Rugby World Cup of that year. But it’s for his role in the two Grand Slams of the ‘noughties’ that he’ll be best remembered. One half of a devastatingly effective centre partnership alongside Gavin Henson, Shanklin contributed much to the Welsh attacking potency of those campaigns, often scything through ‘on the angle’ to open up crucial space for others. The break which paved the way for Kevin Morgan’s Slam-clinching try against Ireland in 2005 sticks in the memory.
Shanklin also enjoyed some real highlights on the regional front, scoring 28 tries in 114 appearances for the Blues, and helping them to the EDF and Amlin trophies on the way. Known for his sharp sense of humour, and always a charming interviewee, he’ll be much missed by the media. But, more importantly, his playing record entitles him to a place in the pantheon of Welsh rugby greats.