His first sporting honours came in cricket but now Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler is focused on rugby

Ospreys and Wales U20 centre Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler

Date of birth 19 November 1999 Born Neath Region Ospreys Country Wales Position Centre

When did you first play?

I was about five and my brother’s U8s team at Bryncoch were short so asked me to play. I played there until U11 and then stopped for a while before starting back at youth level with Trebanos.

I was big into cricket and represented Wales from U11-U17. Then after a year of being back in rugby at Trebanos I got picked by Ospreys U16 so I had to choose. I’ve been with the Ospreys ever since and have just got my first professional contract.

Why did you pick rugby?

Growing up in Wales there’s such a big rugby culture; my father played rugby, my brother and my grandfather played. I just feel rugby was sort of destined to happen.

Did you play other sports?

Football was a big part of my life and I’ve transferred a lot of that into rugby. There are so many skills in football – eye for a gap, footwork – that transfer. I was a striker in football and a batter in cricket – I think I enjoy the pressure.

What positions have you played?

Centre is what I enjoy most but I’ve also played full-back and fly-half. I see 12 as my position now. I like the pressure; you need physicality but also ball skills and to make decisions to put people into space.

You made your Ospreys debut at 18…

It was in the Anglo-Welsh Cup against Gloucester and everything happened so quickly. I was a travelling reserve, then someone pulled out before the game so I was on the bench, then all of a sudden I was on the pitch. It’s the best thing to have happened because you have no time to be nervous.

Any childhood heroes?

I had lots from different sports. Kevin Pietersen for cricket, Ronaldo in football and James Hook rugby-wise. They’re pretty much all mavericks. I enjoy trying new things and doing things a little differently.

What’s your rugby highlight?

Scoring a try against New Zealand at the Junior World Cup. We wanted to play the best and when we beat New Zealand it was almost as if we’d won the World Cup.

What are your goals for this season?

Just playing as many first-team games as I can for the Ospreys.

What do you do away from rugby?

I’ve just finished my personal training qualification and if I’m not playing sport, I’m normally watching it.

RW VERDICT: A dual age-grade international who pays tribute to his family’s support, he is highly rated in Welsh circles – hence the Ospreys signing him on a senior contract as a teenager. Should get lots of regional game time in 2019-20.

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of Rugby World magazine.

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