JAMES Thomas responded to a pep talk from Andrew Coombs when he was released by Newport Gwent Dragons in 2011 and now he sets about attempting to follow in the Wales lock's footsteps.

The 23-year-old back row/lock from Blackwood has returned to Rodney Parade after penning a one-year deal with the region.

It is a terrific comeback for Thomas, who three years ago was crestfallen after being given the push following serious injuries to both knees.

Coombs, who back then was still trying to establish himself as a regional player, spoke from experience when he told him not to give up on his dream of being a professional player.

The 10-times Wales forward was also released by the Dragons after suffering from shoulder problems but fought his way back by leading the charge with Newport RFC.

"Coombsy spoke to me when I got dropped and told me to go out to the Premiership, play well and force my way back," said Thomas, who plied his trade with Pontypool and then Bedwas.

"I was injured at the end of my contract and he gave me some confidence, saying that I would get noticed if I did well. He said that the chance would come round again and that's what has happened.

"I wasn't playing well when I first came back from injury but then my form started to get better and I started to think of going full-time again.

"I didn't know whether it would be back at the Dragons or elsewhere, but the opportunity to return came up and I grabbed it with both hands. It's good to be back."

Thomas will fit in his Dragons commitments with his final year of study at Cardiff University, who he has captained twice in Varsity clashes with their Swansea counterparts at the Millennium Stadium.

He also returns as a back five player rather than number eight/blindside – "Bedwas asked me to fill in for one game at lock and it ended up being two seasons!" – and with a desire to be much more than just squad filler.

A cameo off the bench in the 2009 Anglo-Welsh Cup win against Sale is his only regional experience and Thomas knows that he must make future games count.

"I just need to get some game time and get an opportunity," he said. "Then if I play well I can show the coaches that it's worth bringing me back next season, because I don't want it to be just for one year.

"I need to be looked at as a squad member, not just somebody training with the squad. When I get my chance I have to take it."

Thomas' first opportunity to impress comes on Saturday when he features in the Dragons' 12-man squad for the Premiership Rugby 7s at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.