Lions tourist Tom Shanklin has been told, ‘You can still star at the 2011 World Cup’, despite his latest injury blow.
Wales centre Shanklin has admitted he fears for his World Cup place in New Zealand after his bit-part in the Six Nations playing second fiddle to fellow Lions Jamie Roberts and James Hook.
Shanklin’s misery was compounded in midweek when the 66-cap star was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury picked up against Ulster in the Magners League.
It is another setback for the injury-plagued Cardiff Blues ace and has wrecked his hopes of reclaiming his place on the two-Test summer tour with the All Blacks.
The injury blow will increase Shanklin’s spell on the sidelines for Wales even further, but Mark Taylor, another Welsh Lion, reckons the doubters should write the experienced Shanklin off at their peril.
"There is no doubt that Tom is still good enough for Test level and has a number of excellent years left in him,” said Taylor, a Lion on the 2001 tour of Australia.
"He has been a great player who performs superbly every time he pulls the Welsh jersey on.
"He was one of our stand-out players at the 2007 World Cup and has never let anyone down.
"Tom brings a great attitude to the game; he is very good and strong at the blitz defence that Shaun Edwards is very keen on.
"He’s a communicator on the field and he is excellent with ball in hand. He has had injuries but it’s far too early to write him off.
"Warren Gatland will know he’s a useful player and one of huge benefit to have in the squad because of his consistency, experience and versatility."
Shanklin – twice selected for the Lions in 2005 and 2009 – endured a frustrating Six Nations after he was axed for the opener at Twickenham and an unused replacement against Scotland, France and Ireland.
But even France defence coach Dave Ellis highlighted the value and impact of double Grand Slam winner Shanklin following their victory in Cardiff.
But that did not stop Shanklin fearing he would miss out all together before playing the final 18 minutes of the championship against Italy last month.
Taylor knows all too well about the changing of the guard in midfield having seen the likes of Shanklin, Gavin Henson and Sonny Parker force their way at the end of his 52-cap career.
Wales Under-18 team manager Taylor added: "It is hard because you know you’re time is coming to the end and Tom’s chances will become more restricted.
"I wasn’t desperate but you would do whatever possible when you got the opportunity to stay within the set-up. I’d spend more time on video analysis and made sure I looked after myself.
"And as you get older it becomes important to help the younger players because you can use that as a way of extending your stay in the squad.
"If the coaches see you helping then they will turn to you and ask questions. It can prolong your time.
"Of course, you don’t want to see players in your position doing too well but the most important thing for any squad member is to see Wales win."
Following Shanklin’s third knee problem in as many years, 2009 Lions Roberts and Hook are expected to form the first-choice centre partnership against South Africa and on the tour to New Zealand this summer.
But Taylor insists you cannot discount Shanklin’s experience when he returns to full fitness.
"Jamie is a big threat but he has not reached the level he achieved with the Lions. I’m sure he will admit that as well.
"James is in an unfamiliar position but they are starting to link up well. But sometimes you do need that extra experience. Wales will need Shanklin moving forward."