Ben Thomas emerges to give Wales a Gavin Henson option once more


You need to return to the times of Gavin Henson for the final time a playmaking 12 had an prolonged run within the Wales group.

Since then, you will have typically had a really completely different sort of inside centre on worldwide obligation.

For the very best a part of a decade, it was the ability and direct strategy of Jamie Roberts that proved so efficient amid the ‘Warrenball’ means.

Then, for a few years, you had one other carrying choice within the ultra-reliable Hadleigh Parkes, a person who offered the midfield glue, very hardly ever making a mistake.

Most just lately, you will have seen Johnny Williams, Owen Watkin and a re-branded Jonathan Davies providing the go-forward.

There was the occasional dabble with a second playmaker at 12 alongside the way in which, with James Hook and Owen Williams briefly bringing the mindset of a fly-half to the position.

But it surely has been a rarity total, with physicality actually taking centre stage more often than not.

Now although, one younger man is rising as a real contender to offer a unique dimension.

Within the 22-year-old Ben Thomas, you will have the traditional 10-12, somebody who presents that further playmaking choice in midfield.

He performed a lot of his age-grade rugby at fly-half and it reveals, when it comes to his time on the ball and his passing means.

If you watch him play at inside centre for Cardiff Blues, it’s noticeable how typically he goes to first receiver and he’s greater than comfy in doing so.

He’s constructing a extremely good rapport with Jarrod Evans, with the pair dovetailing extremely successfully, very similar to Evans did with Gareth Anscombe when the latter was appearing as a second playmaker from 15.

Thomas additionally offers a kicking choice, whereas he’s very straightforward on the attention as a runner.

He glides throughout the turf, with that profitable mixture of tempo and beauty, and is beginning to make defences more and more nervous together with his means to assault the skin shoulder.

Then, when he makes a breaks, he has the composure and dealing with expertise to take advantage of the state of affairs, as demonstrated by his scoring offload to Josh Adams in opposition to the Dragons earlier this month.

What actually catches the attention is his vary of passing, be it the come out of the sort out, the refined feed or the ball fizzed in entrance of the noses of defenders to launch a person out huge. It’s a uncommon expertise.

Now, it was an enormous check for him final Friday evening when he got here up in opposition to a Munster midfield that includes Springboks star Damian de Allende, the person who powered his option to the Welsh line within the World Cup semi-final.

However he greater than held his personal, rising together with his rising popularity enhanced nonetheless additional, shining brightly throughout a compelling contest.

Blues director of rugby Dai Younger actually has excessive hopes for the previous Wales U20s worldwide.

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“Ben has obtained an excellent skill-set,” he stated.

“His distribution is sweet and his kicking recreation is sweet, which implies he can play 10, 12 and 15. He has additionally improved his defence.

“I feel he is usually a bit extra of a operating risk himself.

“He’s getting higher with each recreation he performs.

“He has obtained self-belief and confidence in himself, however is raring to continue to learn.

“He’s an excellent professional who works onerous.

“He’s very thrilling and has an enormous future for my part.”

Alongside Thomas in midfield in opposition to Munster at Thomond Park was Wales centre Willis Halaholo and he echoes the reward from Younger.

“Ben goes actually good,” he stated.

“He’s a silky participant. He might be one thing particular quickly.”

Thomas hails from notable sporting inventory, together with his father Pat Thomas having been British light-middleweight boxing champion.

But it surely’s the oval ball and the rectangular pitch fairly than the gloves and the sq. ring that he has centered on.

He started his rugby at Corpus Christi Excessive Faculty – which each Callum Sheedy and Rhys Carre attended – and St Peters RFC.

Graduating by means of Cardiff Faculties, he moved into the Blues age-grade system, whereas additionally captaining Cardiff and Vale School and representing Wales U20s.

Then he began to make an enormous impression with the Cardiff membership facet, initially at fly-half earlier than settling into the 12 berth.

He gained the Premiership Greatest Newcomer award in 2019 and over the previous two seasons he has made the step as much as regional stage, trying more and more at dwelling within the environment.

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If you ask him who his favorite gamers have been rising up, he picks out Quade Cooper and Danny Cipriani.

“They’re folks I actually wish to try to watch and hopefully mould my recreation round,” he says.

It’s telling he ought to choose two of probably the most inventive gamers of the previous decade as a result of that’s what his personal recreation is all about – creating and making issues occur.

Clearly, breaking into the Wales set-up might be an actual problem for him as a result of there are such a lot of centre contenders on the market.

You’ve obtained Halaholo, Nick Tompkins, Owen Watkin and Jonathan Davies who’re all choices at 12, whereas Johnny Williams will add to that blend when he returns from shoulder surgical procedure subsequent season.

Then you definitely’ve obtained the uncapped Keiran Williams and Aneurin Owen who’ve each taken main strides this season, with Max Llewellyn additionally on the horizon.

However in boxer’s son Thomas you will have another person who’s throwing his hat into the ring and providing one thing completely different as that elusive second playmaker.


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