All-round good guy Dan Thomas believes he has Bristol Bears boss Pat Lam to thank for turning his career around after three fruitless years at Gloucester.
Former Scarlets flanker Thomas admits he was heading nowhere at Kingsholm after making just three Premiership appearances in three years at the club.
However, since being rescued by Lam in 2017, the Welshman whose smile puts Schalk Brits in the shade has been instrumental to Bristol’s success.
After scoring the last-gasp try that defeated Exeter and sent Bristol to the top of the Premiership last weekend, Thomas told The Rugby Paper.
“I enjoyed my time at Gloucester but didn’t play much and my opportunities over three years were sparse.
“I was 23 when I came to Bristol and it was my third club, so I thought ‘I’d better make something of this’ and I’ve appreciated the opportunities Pat’s given me.
“It’s up to me to pay that back now and I’m enjoying it. I’ve got a smile on my face every time I take the pitch now and I just want to do my best because the group of boys we have is so tight and the ambition to achieve success here is huge.
“Whether it’s the Premiership or Europe, we want to win every game that comes towards us and we want to achieve home quarter-finals and semi-finals to give us the best chance of silverware. To go to Exeter and win was a big step forward.”
Whether Thomas can fulfil the potential at international level that saw him capped 17 times by Wales U20s in 2012 and 2013 remains to be seen.
However, Lam knows a gem when he sees one. The Samoan said: “First and foremost, Dan’s a good bloke. He’s a farm boy, he’s tough and he’s rugged, but he’s got some unbelievable skills as well.
“The biggest thing, like any player, is finding out what their motivation is and it’s the old thing: people don’t care how much to know, it’s how much you care.
“Dan’s taken his chances here and I’ve got a lot of time for him. It’s great competition between him and Jake Heenan and they’re both very ambitious. I’ve told Dan that his ability is in working for the team and he’s doing that, which is great.”
With back row competition that includes Steven Luatua and Nathan Hughes, as well as Heenan, Thomas is lapping up his Premiership chance.
He added: “The competition in this squad is so tough, but that’s the best thing for us because it means nobody is complacent and everyone’s on edge.
“If we want to be the best team in this league, which we do, we need to be totally ruthless.”
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