Henry Thomas, is perhaps not one of the most recognisable names in Eddie Jones’ maiden England Rugby EPS squad and he certainly isn’t one that has been discussed to the hill over the last few weeks however the prop is more than ready to change that by making an impact in camp.
As we caught up with Henry at Bath Rugby’s training ground, Farleigh House, he was covered in mud after an intense morning training session. The start of the 2015-16 season has not been easy for all at the club, that perhaps is the understatement of the century, however Henry’s personal form has impressed. The tight-head prop has started 8 of their 13 games and come off the bench in the other 5 and his performances in those matches earned him a call from Eddie Jones. Of course he is one with an asterisk next to his name, as an injury replacement for Kieran Brookes, regardless it is an opportunity that he cannot wait to grasp;
“I don’t think that you are ever expecting it but you play in training all season to perform well for your club and then try and push your way towards the England squad. I’ve been here all summer, training with the system, training with the conditioners and felt ready when the season started to kick on. I think a lot of that [personal form] was down to being here and getting that extra conditioning in.”
Like all professional front-rowers Henry is flourishing as he matures, he is still only 24, and season on season he is developing. Henry first came to Premiership prominence at the Sale Sharks, at the end of his time at Millfield School, and since his move to Bath Rugby he has progressed physically and his consistency has shot up. Henry perfectly fits the mould of the ‘modern-day prop’, his set piece proficiency is high and he combines this with bullish work around the park, an engine that goes on and on, and is a player that is always eager to get his hands dirty.
As every individual that has been called up into Eddie Jones’ squad Henry knows that camp will be a very different place to the one that he last experienced. As a person Henry is an articulate and astute individual and he’s well aware of the need to ‘adapt’ to Jones’ style. Indeed his words were ‘part of the skill of a player is being able to play under different coaches and adapting your game to that’ and he is right. The ‘new’ England presents a challenge and one that he’s ready to embrace and see if he can force his way into Jones’ reckoning;
“He knows what he wants and he knows what he is looking for from each player in each position for the way that he wants the team to play. I’m sure more of that will come out the longer that we are in camp and he looks like someone who knows what he wants and he won’t stop at much to get it.”
Of course first there is the small matter of Bath Rugby meeting the three-time European Champions RC Toulon at home and the team are heading into the game off the back of a disappointing showing at the RDS. Bath’s European campaign has been similar to their Aviva Premiership one, frustrating and plagued by inconsistencies, however the belief is that they are not far away from delivering the performance that will propel them back on track.
Two weeks ago at the Stade Felix Mayol Bath were back to a side resembling the one that we know and love and they are certainly going to draw on that in order to deliver on home soil on Saturday afternoon. Bath Rugby aren’t the first, and won’t be the last top sporting team to suffer a dip in form and all know just how important this weekend is;
“There is a massive buzz about getting back on top of our game like we were at the Stade Felix Mayol and building momentum for the following weeks. This team is itching to put a performance out for the fans who are obviously disappointed last week, and rightly so. The last thing that we want to do is to put defeat on defeat. We were just out there [on the training field] and had a great session – there was a bit of bite to it but it is a good way.”
Without question the weekend will be yet another stern test of this Bath’s team’s resolve and character. The European Champions have qualification to the knockouts on the line while this side has their own hopes and desires at stake.
The match will be a step up from the domestic arena, as the best European Champions Cup matches are, and it is one that on a personal level it is one that Henry can again use to showcase his talents to Eddie Jones before heading into camp.
From Sunday evening the focus for the 24 year-old will shift to pushing himself up the rankings as Eddie Jones focuses on re-finding a bullish and powerful English pack however for now it’s all systems ago ahead of one final European test.
By Emma Thurston
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