Kingston’s Henry Thomas might be England’s new kid on the block, but he reckons he is learning fast, writes Sacha Clayton.
The 22-year-old Sale Sharks prop, standing in for injured Leicester Tigers star Dan Cole, came off the bench to earn his fourth cap for his country in Sunday’s 29-18 Six Nations win over Wales at Twickenham.
It has been a metrioric rise for the former Millfield School and Manchester University student since making his senior debut against Argentina last summer, with injuries to David Wilson and Cole paving the way for his elevation from the Saxons second string.
Thomas, whose father Nigel once starred for London Welsh, will switch to the west country Premiership giants Bath in the summer, having made more than 50 top-flight appearances for the Sharks.
Now he wants to make a name for himself on the international stage, but admits he has plenty still to learn from his rivals and
forwards coach Graham Rowntree.
“The basic for any front-row forward is the scrum,” he said last week.
“You cannot play at international level without that part of your game being at a very high standard.
“The scrums are closer together at international level, which makes the technical side of things even more important.
“You don’t get that a lot in the Premiership, the referees like to keep it a bit further apart and keep the hit.
“But in internationals now you are almost pre-engaged, so you have to work out ways to deal with that.
“Guys like Dan Cole and Graham Rowntree are fantastic scrummagers and it helps you along, so I definitely feel like I have improved.”
But while Thomas starts to feel at home on the international scene, he insists he will remain true to himself in his bid to reach the top.
“You have got to be your own player. Each player has their own selling point,” he added.
“For me that is ball in hand stuff, carrying and link-play, that is one of my main strengths I feel.
“Coley [Dan Cole] is a big character in the squad. He may not be the one shouting his mouth off, but quietly he is a very funny bloke.
“He has a lot of influence on the team atmosphere.
“The amount of caps he has got and playing for the Lions, that’s a massive goal of mine. He is the level to try and aim for.
“Argentina was special because they were my first caps and you can never take that away.
“But a first Six Nations cap is pretty big. When I came on against Ireland it was amazing and I feel like I made a bit of a difference.
“That makes me feel more part of the squad and gives me confidence going through into later games.”
* Henry Thomas was representing the England team on behalf of Marriott Hotels, official partner of England Rugby; see how Marriott is reinventing travel at travelbrilliantly.co.uk.