Thomas is one of only two survivors from the last time Wales won an Six Nations game away from Cardiff when they triumphed 43-35 in Paris in 2001. They have lost seven on the bounce since that famous win including a 30-22 defeat in Rome two years ago. Having broken their hoodoo against England last weekend, Thomas says Wales must bring that miserable run to an end.
"It's massively important for us to win in Rome if this team is to progress," said Thomas. "It's easy to get up for a game at the Millennium Stadium when most of the 74,000 fans are screaming for you, but producing the goods away from home is another thing.
"We know it's going to be tough in Rome, especially after watching the way they rattled Ireland last weekend. But we have to try and play the type of rugby we know we can."
Among the factors Wales must contend with at the Stadio Flaminio will be the Mitre rugby balls prefered in Italy. Wales have been training with the balls, described as "pointier" than the usual Gilbert model, that caused Ireland's Ronan O'Gara difficulty last Sunday.
"The kickers said they have noticed a difference. You can't kick the Mitre balls quite so far and there's less room for error," said Ruddock. "We will certainly not be using the ball as an excuse."
Meanwhile, Ruddock has defended his decision to keep Stephen Jones as first choice amid calls to hand the responsibility to Gavin Henson. Jones missed three of his four kicks against England before the new golden boy of Welsh rugby landed his late match-winner from fifty yards out.
"Stephen is a proven goal-kicker under pressure at both club and Test level but he knows he needs to improve his ratio from last week," said Ruddock. "Gavin is still finding his feet at this level and we didn't want the burdon of kicking to stifle the other things he does around the field. He's always there to bang over the long-range efforts."
Martyn Williams will undergo a fitness test today (Thurs) on his knee though uncapped Cardiff flanker Robin Sowden-Taylor will travel with the team as cover.
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