Having defied medical opinion to target an early return from the ACL injury he suffered in November, Henry Thomas is ready to prove he deserves a new contract at Bath.
Tighthead Thomas, 28, has endured rotten luck since November 2016 when he ruptured the ACL in his other knee. He returned to play and began to fight back into England contention, but was then struck down by a hamstring tear.
November’s trip to Wasps should have been a joyous return, but instead it heralded another frustrating chapter in the career of one of England’s most talented props.
Thomas admits he thought of quitting, telling TRP: “I did question whether I could go through it all again, knowing how hard the recovery is.
“Mentally, it’s really hard when you’re seeing the guys out there playing and winning and you want to be there, not lying in a rehab room. But I quickly realised that I still had plenty more to give and I feel like I’ve got many years left me – if I can just stay fit.
“I’ve had my share of these things but experience helps because you know how to deal with it. I’m trying to push on now and see if I can be back before the end of the season.”
A fit-again Thomas would be an asset to Bath and England, according to head coach Neal Hatley, who has a long history with a player who could yet have an international future.
Hatley explained: “When I was at London Irish, we tried to sign Henry from Millfield and I always saw great value in him as a player. I actually went to see Jonathan Joseph but Henry was in the front row with Mako Vunipola and was the best player on the pitch.
“He’s a very good scrummager, he moves well and understands the game. Having Henry fit and playing well is an asset to any side.”
Capped seven times by England, Thomas has had to watch Will Stuart, Bath’s summer recruit from Wasps, zoom ahead and thrust himself into the Red Rose limelight.
Thomas adds: “I’m really happy for Will, we rehabbed together through the summer and he’s played well this season. He’s there on merit and fully deserves his chance, but I see my role now in a very positive way.
“Competition is good for the club and having guys like Will and Christian Judge coming in to compete for a place has made our pack stronger. When I come back I’ll be putting pressure on those guys and pushing them for a place.
“Contract-wise, it’s not the easiest time because of my injury but things are moving in the right direction. I can’t tell exactly what Bath are thinking, but I have been here six years so they know what I can do and I’ve got lots of experience in the bank.”
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