Gareth Thomas is backing Rio Dyer and Josh Adams to fill the void left by Louis Rees-Zammit's shock departure from rugby.

The former Wales and British & Irish Lions captain, 49, believes that Rees-Zammit's move to the NFL has given room for Dyer and Adams to step up and bring their own spin and talents to the forefront.

Dragons wing Dyer, 24, was one of four Wales try-scorers against Scotland as they roared back from a 27-0 deficit to narrowly lose 27-26 in the opening round of the  Guinness Six Nations.

And Thomas believes Dyer's 'niche' attributes can help Warren Gatland’s side combat the loss of Rees-Zammit, 23, ahead of Wales’ hotly-anticipated clash against England at Twickenham on Saturday.

"I applaud [Rees-Zammit] for taking that risk at such a young age and trying for the NFL," he said.

"It's such a brave, bold and confident decision that showcases everything you want from a professional sports person.

"If it doesn't work, he can easily come back and play rugby as any club will take him.

"For Wales, the difficulty now is that we've lost a very exciting talent who's lethal in playing and has an amazing eye for the try line.

"But we do have the likes of Rio Dyer and Josh Adams who have those skills, but they also have their own niches.

"For me, I wouldn't say we had to replace Louis, but someone like Dyer can now take that place and do what he does best."

Rees-Zammit's departure from rugby came just weeks before the start of the Guinness Six Nations, leaving Wales with a relatively young and inexperienced side.

And with Gatland publicly calling the first half against Scotland one of the worst of his coaching career, Thomas believes that the game was a much-needed shock to the system for the young squad as they embark on Twickenham for their second outing.

"I understand why Gatland has said that as even though there's an element of truth to it, it's publicly telling his players that they were part of a first-half that upset him as a coach," said Thomas, speaking on National HIV Testing as part of his trailblazing Tackle HIV campaign.

"That 40 minutes was probably the biggest lesson that they will ever learn.

"Those youngsters learnt in 40 minutes what often takes most internationals about three or four years and they definitely don't want to live that again.

"It came at the right time as it's come before the biggest fixture of the Six Nations since it's steeped in so much rivalry and patriotism.

"They can’t do that against England. It would be a different story if they did that."

Thomas is the face of the Tackle HIV campaign, an initiative that aims to tackle the stigma and misunderstanding around HIV.

National HIV Testing Week takes place from the 5 to 11 February and Thomas is urging everyone to get tested, even if you don't think you need to.

He added: "This week is about getting people to understand that the stigma surrounding HIV is still very much a problem and that comes down to testing as well.

"People feel like HIV only affects a certain characteristic and is predominantly in gay and bisexual men or black men and women but the reality is very different. It's a virus which can affect everyone.

"Getting tested has changed over the years to make it easier over the years to help dispel those stigmas so you can now get order a test to your home.

"The medicine has changed so much in the past years but sadly we still live with those 1980s stigmas around us.”

Tackle HIV is a campaign led by Gareth Thomas in partnership with ViiV Healthcare and Terrence Higgins Trust and aims to tackle the stigma and misunderstanding around HIV. For more information visit and follow @tacklehiv