8:30am Wednesday 7th August 2013
By Chris Kirwan
HE may be the only Newport Gwent Dragons front row forward in his 30s, but Rhys Thomas doesn’t want to be known as an elder statesman after his Rodney Parade homecoming.
The 27-times capped former Wales hooker has returned to Rodney Parade after a season with London Wasps.
Thomas is best known for his time with Cardiff Blues, where he made a regional record 182 appearances and won the Amlin Challenge Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup.
But in the spring of 2003, before regional rugby, he played for Newport RFC as a 21-year-old.
He made his Black and Ambers debut off the bench at the Arms Park, replacing James Richards against a Cardiff side that had Peter Rogers as a makeshift hooker.
That he played before the inception of the Dragons automatically puts his as one of the region’s older heads.
Adding an experienced spine to their team was the Dragons’ priority when carrying out their recruitment drive.
But Thomas believes he can’t just rely on knowhow to get the nod ahead of fellow hookers 21-year-old Sam Parry, 26-year-old Hugh Gustafson and 19-year-old Elliot Dee.
“There is plenty of experience here,” he said. “Anybody who plays regional rugby, even if they are 20, has experience.
“There are no boys here and I don’t want to just be seen as an older head. I have to get in the team on merit and know that there is plenty of competition.
“I’d like to think that I have plenty to add to this team and I want the start. If I don’t get it then I have to make it as hard as possible for the person that does.
“That all starts by proving yourself in training – if you want the job then you have to show the boss that you are up to it.
“There have been changes over the summer and everyone has a fresh start and everyone is keen.”
Thomas didn’t head back over the Severn Bridge because things went wrong in Wycombe, quite the opposite in fact.
The man from Abercynon was a hit at Adams Park, making 28 appearances in the heart of the front row, 17 as a starter.
He loved his time at Wasps but family had to come first.
“My wife couldn’t move because of work commitments and with a young family I wanted to come home,” he said.
“It was the right time and luckily the right opportunity came up. The direction that the region is going in is exciting and we’ve made some good signings.
“There are a lot of fresh faces and we are looking forward to surprising a few people because we are confident in our own ability.”
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