Sports

Eye-catching Ben Thomas gives Wales the chance to do what they haven’t done since Gavin Henson

You have to go back to the days of Gavin Henson for the last time a playmaking 12 had an extended run in the Wales team.

Since then, you have generally had a very different kind of inside centre on international duty.

For the best part of a decade, it was the power and direct approach of Jamie Roberts that proved so effective amid the ‘Warrenball’ way.

Then, for a couple of years, you had another carrying option in the ultra-reliable Hadleigh Parkes, a man who provided the midfield glue, very rarely making a mistake.

Most recently, you have seen Johnny Williams, Owen Watkin and a re-branded Jonathan Davies offering the go-forward.

There has been the occasional dabble with a second playmaker at 12 along the way, with James Hook and Owen Williams briefly bringing the mindset of a fly-half to the role.

But it has been a rarity overall, with physicality literally taking centre stage most of the time.

Now though, one young man is emerging as a genuine contender to provide a different dimension.

In the 22-year-old Ben Thomas, you have the classic 10-12, someone who offers that additional playmaking option in midfield.

He played much of his age-grade rugby at fly-half and it shows, in terms of his time on the ball and his passing ability.

When you watch him play at inside centre for Cardiff Blues, it’s noticeable how often he goes to first receiver and he is more than comfortable in doing so.

He’s building a really good rapport with Jarrod Evans, with the pair dovetailing highly effectively, much like Evans did with Gareth Anscombe when the latter was acting as a second playmaker from 15.

Thomas also provides a kicking option, while he’s very easy on the eye as a runner.

He glides across the turf, with that winning combination of pace and grace, and is starting to make defences increasingly nervous with his ability to attack the outside shoulder.

Then, when he makes a breaks, he has the composure and handling skills to exploit the situation, as demonstrated by his scoring offload to Josh Adams against the Dragons earlier this month.

What really catches the eye is his range of passing, be it the pop out of the tackle, the subtle feed or the ball fizzed in front of the noses of defenders to release a man out wide. It’s a rare talent.

Now, it was a big test for him last Friday night when he came up against a Munster midfield featuring Springboks star Damian de Allende, the man who powered his way to the Welsh line in the World Cup semi-final.

But he more than held his own, emerging with his growing reputation enhanced still further, shining brightly during a compelling contest.

Blues director of rugby Dai Young certainly has high hopes for the former Wales U20s international.

We want you to be on top of everything that’s happening around Welsh rugby and the Lions.

To get the latest daily Welsh rugby headlines, analysis and interviews – plus rugby correspondent Simon Thomas’ weekly briefing – sent straight to your inbox for FREE, click here and select ‘rugby’.

“Ben has got a very good skill-set,” he said.

“His distribution is good and his kicking game is good, which means he can play 10, 12 and 15. He has also improved his defence.

“I think he can be a bit more of a running threat himself.

“He’s getting better with every game he plays.

“He has got self-belief and confidence in himself, but is eager to keep learning.

“He’s a very good pro who works hard.

“He’s very exciting and has a big future in my opinion.”

Alongside Thomas in midfield against Munster at Thomond Park was Wales centre Willis Halaholo and he echoes the praise from Young.

“Ben is going really good,” he said.

“He is a silky player. He will be something special soon.”

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

But it’s the oval ball and the oblong pitch rather than the gloves and the square ring that he has focused on.

He began his rugby at Corpus Christi High School – which both Callum Sheedy and Rhys Carre attended – and St Peters RFC.

Graduating through Cardiff Schools, he moved into the Blues age-grade system, while also captaining Cardiff and Vale College and representing Wales U20s.

Then he started to make a big impression with the Cardiff club side, initially at fly-half before settling into the 12 berth.

He won the Premiership Best Newcomer award in 2019 and over the past two seasons he has made the step up to regional level, looking increasingly at home in the surroundings.

Who is your Wales 12 for the future? Let us know in the comments

When you ask him who his favourite players were growing up, he picks out Quade Cooper and Danny Cipriani.

“They are people I really like to try and watch and hopefully mould my game around,” he says.

It’s telling he should select two of the most creative players of the past decade because that’s what his own game is all about – creating and making things happen.

Clearly, breaking into the Wales set-up will be a real challenge for him because there are so many centre contenders out there.

You’ve got Halaholo, Nick Tompkins, Owen Watkin and Jonathan Davies who are all options at 12, while Johnny Williams will add to that mix when he returns from shoulder surgery next season.

Then you’ve got the uncapped Keiran Williams and Aneurin Owen who have both taken major strides this season, with Max Llewellyn also on the horizon.

But in boxer’s son Thomas you have someone else who is throwing his hat into the ring and offering something different as that elusive second playmaker.

...

ALSO READ  Edo can’t host NSF January 3-17 – deputy governor
Tags

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button
Close
eskisehir escort -

jojobet.live

- redwin1.club - jetbahis.contact -
retrobet
- tempobeteskisehir escort -

jojobet.live

- redwin1.club - jetbahis.contact -
retrobet
- tempobet