A consistent threat in the Premiership, uncapped Gloucester wing Ollie Thorley is part of England's 2020 Six Nations squad. He talks wooden cars, Moses and a royal confession


Downtime with… Gloucester wing Ollie Thorley

Ollie Thorley, 23, is one of eight uncapped players named in England’s 34-strong squad for the 2020 Guinness Six Nations. The explosive Gloucester wing is picking up from last year, when he won the Premiership Young Player of the Season award and trained with England both during the Six Nations and in preparation for the World Cup.

This season Thorley has made nine clean breaks and beaten 24 defenders in the Premiership and his eye for an opportunity was best demonstrated in the first of his two tries at Harlequins, when he picked up from a midfield ruck and accelerated to the line, brushing off hooker Elia Elia, almost before Quins knew what was happening.

A knee injury towards the end of last season effectively cost him a chance of making Eddie Jones’s squad for Japan 2019, but Thorley is now back and one of only three specialist wings in the squad with Jonny May and Anthony Watson, who both started the World Cup final.

RW spoke to Thorley for a Downtime article that was published in our June 2019 edition…

Ollie Thorley scores for Gloucester v Harlequins

Too quick by half: Thorley bursts clear to score the first of his try double at Quins (CameraSport/Getty)

What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen on the pitch?

At Sale three years ago, Greig Laidlaw was giving us the pre-match pep talk out on the pitch. Everyone was laughing because he had a big length of tissue roll attached to his boot. It was an unorthodox psyche-up but we ended up winning and Greig was Man of the Match.

Who’s the biggest prankster at your club?

Fraser Balmain’s up there. He has a quintessential British humour, mixing classic comedy with a bit of darker stuff. His partner-in-crime is Ed Slater.

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?

I feel Theresa May would enjoy a bit of time with the cameras off her face, so she could chill out in there. I’d be happy to help her relax. That sounds dodgy!

Ollie Thorley of Gloucester

All smiles: the wing at a pre-season photo-call (Getty)

Do you have any phobias?

I’m not a massive fan of nasty toes, which you see a lot of in rugby. Specifically the nails. You know, when someone’s had their toenail stood on and it’s all blackened. That creeps me out. My own nails are beautiful.

What’s your most embarrassing moment?

I was a mascot in the 2006 FA Cup final in Cardiff. I’m a West Ham supporter but I was Liverpool’s mascot. When I was introduced to Prince William, I confessed that I was a West Ham fan. I said, “I can’t wait to get this Liverpool shirt off me.” Steven Gerrard, who had held my hand as we walked out at the start, heard me, the Liverpool players heard me. Everyone was amused but it was pretty embarrassing.

I became their mascot as my dad used to be involved in the pub industry and had a friend at Carlsberg (then Liverpool’s sponsors). It was an amazing day and Alan Pardew gave me the West Ham pennant that was carried out.

Gloucester wing Ollie Thorley

Memory: Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard and Prince William at the 2006 FA Cup final (Getty Images)

If your house was on fire, what one item would you save?

I collect art. I’ve got two sketches by Chris Riddell, an artist who illustrates children’s books, which have a lot of sentimental value to me. So I’d save those. I know technically that’s two items but they’re sort of a pair.

What would be your specialist Mastermind subject?

I enjoy a good pub quiz. It would probably be an area of geography, like capital cities. Or Victorian history, specifically Benjamin Disraeli and the politics of the time. Or just Disraeli.

What’s the silliest thing you’ve bought?

A Morris Minor Traveller. Half of the frame is wood and it was slightly terrifying going at any speed above 30mph. If you were in a crash you’d be dust. It was really cool but a ridiculous acquisition. I don’t have it anymore.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Caramac bars and Disney films.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

There’s one thing from Exodus in the Bible. Moses is leading the Israelites to the Red Sea and being chased by the Egyptians. He tells his people to “stand still”. In the heat of the moment when they think they’re about to be slaughtered, that message of standing still and being calm resonates a lot with me. It’s relevant to rugby because it’s a sport where everything moves quickly. Being able to collect your thoughts in a game is really important.

Who would be your three dream dinner party guests?

Disraeli because of how eloquent he was and because I have a bit of a man-crush on him. Ada Lovelace intrigues me; she was the daughter of Byron and produced the mathematics that was the foundation of computer science. This was in the first half of the 19th century, so she was pretty forward-thinking. And I’d have someone American there. Probably Barack Obama.

Gloucester wing Ollie Thorley

Rising star: Ollie Thorley was named Young Player of the Year at the RPA Awards (Getty Images)

If you could be one team-mate, who would you be?

It’d be cool to be Ben Morgan. He’s a bit of a freak of nature but has a really good skill-set as well. I like to run into people when the option to run round them isn’t there, so it would be interesting to see what happened if I went in with an extra X amount of kilos.

Do you have a hidden talent?

People say I know a lot about restaurants, like who owns which brands or chain. It’s a weird superpower I’ve got.

Do you have any nicknames?

The main ones are Thorlo or One-ten. Some people call me one-ten because they say I go 110% in everything. In the England camp they called me Thor. Thor, son of Odin.

Any future goals you want to achieve?

I’d like to progress and play for England – and not just play but play well.

It would be great for Gloucester to keep building and putting pressure on Saracens and Exeter. Gloucester is a rugby-obsessed city, the fans are the best in the league, so doing justice to all that would be an amazing feeling.

And outside of rugby?

I had a place to read history but because of rugby didn’t take it up. Some form of higher education is important to me. So my next non-rugby goal is sorting out a degree.

Ollie Thorley, Gloucester v Saracens

Powerful: Thorley slips the tackle of Ralph Adams-Hale during a league match against Saracens (Getty)

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 edition of Rugby World magazine.

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