By Jonathan Thomas
THIS SUMMER’S been hectic. Not only have I moved clubs, leaving the Ospreys after ten years to join Worcester, but my wife and I have just had a second child. My daughter, Naya, was born in Gloucester, but she’ll certainly grow up knowing that she’s Welsh!
I made a lot of friends at the Ospreys, but I’m 30 now and I was ready for a change. So why Worcester? I’d had offers from other clubs in France and England. Then towards the end of the season I met Dean Ryan at Sixways and pretty much made up my mind straightaway.
Worcester as a club blows you away; the facilities are second to none and with Dean coming in it’s like starting with a clean slate. He talked about the huge potential at Worcester and he wants to take the club on a journey. He knows it’s not going to happen overnight, but I’m excited by the direction the club is going.
The new coaching team is first class. Dean has a great way of managing players, I remember watching Shane Howarth play for Wales and forwards coach Carl Hogg is so passionate that it’s infectious. I’ve been around long enough to know good and bad environments, and this is as good as it gets.
We probably haven’t got the strongest squad in the Premiership, there are teams with bigger budgets and more international quality, but that’s not to say we can’t be competitive. We know this is going to be a tough season, but as long as we show unity as a team and a good work ethic there’s no reason why we can’t surprise a few people.
I’ve been part of some successful teams in the past and one thing they have in common is hard work. That’s Dean’s message – to achieve and get better, we’ve got to work harder than anyone else.
From day one this pre-season has been up there with the toughest I’ve done. He won’t thank me for saying this, but Paul Warwick’s first session was a particularly gruelling one and he ended up spewing down his new training jersey!
I’m a rugby nause and I like watching rugby, so I’ve seen a lot of the Aviva Premiership over the years. That was a real attraction for me – playing in a new league. I spent ten years in the Celtic League, with the same venues and teams, so I’m excited about going to new grounds and playing different clubs. I know it’s going to be a battle week in, week out and that’s great. As a player you don’t want to play in dead rubbers, you want matches that are meaningful.
I still have ambitions to play for Wales. That’s something I would never close the door on. Retiring from international rugby is like saying you’re not good enough any more. I personally feel I’m good enough to be part of the Wales set-up; that may sound arrogant but it’s not meant to be, I just believe in my ability.
It’s not my decision, though. All I can do is play my best for Worcester and I’m really excited about the new season.
See Jonathan and our other columnists and exclusive features in the October edition of Rugby World – out now!
Check out highlights from Worcester’s loss to Leicester Tigers at the weekend: