When tighthead Henry Thomas signed for Bath Rugby ahead of the 2014/15 season, it meant that an early stage of his life had come full circle. Despite being born in Kingston (“London, not Jamaica”), his parents moved to the slightly earthier surrounds of Bath when Thomas was four years old.
At the city’s renowned King Edward’s School, Thomas excelled in both his studies – nestled amongst his host of GCSEs is Japanese – and on the field: namely in cricket and rugby. “I’ve always been keen on playing all sports,” says the 22-year-old. “Those two were my better ones, but whichever I chose, I knew back then that I wanted to be a professional sportsman.”
Thomas’s flair with the bat and ball – England U15s cricket one year, England U16s rugby the next – meant he gravitated towards Millfield, the Mecca of school sports in the West Country. Once there, the choice had to be made: would he be following the path of Old Millfieldian Craig Kieswetter, or that of another OM, Chris Robshaw?
“I was always quite a big kid, which may have been part of the choice I ended up taking,” Thomas says. “In the end, I preferred the rugby environment and, I suppose, the game itself.”
The seeds were sown the summer after his introduction to the England Rugby age groups. “I played a lot more and started training to be a professional rugby player,” he says, detailing his approach to the game at Millfield which prepared him for life as a full-time athlete. “We had early morning gym twice a week, and I then had one of the England U18s conditioning coaches come in once a week.”
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has much to thank those early morning sessions in Millfield for: the U18s coach didn’t just oversee Thomas’s physical development, but that of a certain Mako Vunipola. “Chris Cook and Jonathan Joseph were there as well, but obviously the gym was less necessary for those guys!” laughs Thomas.
Incidentally, it was an England U20s team featuring Thomas and his new Bath teammates Cook and Joseph – not to mention George Ford – that lost to New Zealand in the final of the 2011 Junior World Championship. Thomas even made it onto the scoresheet that day, putting him in the company of Christian Wade and Beauden Barrett, to name just two future stars of the game.
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