After a ‘surreal’ Leicester Tigers debut two weeks ago, Joe Thomas is all set for the challenge of a trip to Bath in Round 3 of the Premiership Rugby Cup.
The 23-year-old fills the No13 shirt he wore in the Cup opener away to Worcester last month, and reflected on how it felt to see his name above the peg at Sixways.
“Getting that jersey on was a surreal moment,” he said. “When I saw my number above the hook with my name, it was just an amazing feeling and I couldn’t wait to get on the pitch.
“After a pre-season that felt like it was never going to end, it was amazing to put the shirt on.”
Now selected in a starting XV formed from a blend of youth and experience, Thomas knows the prospect of a strong Bath side will help to serve as additional preparation for the start of the Gallagher Premiership campaign later this month.
“We felt really fit [at Worcester],” he said. “Every fitness session, we’re showing we’re not tired. We’re getting ready and set to go again.
“We’ve spoken about being tough Tigers since day one, [and so] we’re playing to the whistle, and we’ll fight for every bit of grass.”
For Thomas, being given a ‘second lease of life’ in Leicester has helped him to re-invent himself following a spell playing amateur rugby in New Zealand.
He explained: “Down there, the club-level boys could easily step up into a professional environment.
“As for the skill level, I got stepped by a 130kg prop and I thought ‘Jeez, I’ve got to adapt here’. It’s made me more humble about getting opportunities and being a professional rugby player.
“When I heard Leicester Tigers were interested, I was on the next flight home.
“Having one of the biggest clubs in Europe saying they’d be interested to have you on board was like a second lease of life, and I’m just so grateful to be a part of this club.
“When I get that jersey on, I appreciate it so much more through understanding what it means to me.”
“We’ve got danger everywhere you look on the pitch.”Joe Thomas
And after a three-month round of pre-season preparations, capped off with this block of four Premiership Rugby Cup fixtures, Thomas agrees that Tigers are in a good place – even if not the finished article just yet.
“As long as we’re in control of what we can do, with the way we’re playing we can cause a lot of teams trouble,” he added.
“If we get our stuff right on the day, we won’t need to worry too much about the other team.
“We’ve got danger everywhere you look on the pitch, so it’s about getting our roles right and making sure we’re clear in what we’re doing, and how we execute.
“Every team is good but, so long as we manage ourselves and put in the effort that we’ve made all pre-season, show the intent, I’m sure we’ll cause a lot of teams problems.”
Tigers return to Welford Road next Saturday (October 12) for the first Derby Day of the season against Northampton Saints. BUY EARLY to secure the best-priced match tickets, from £20 for adults and £10 for junior supporters.