Nicky Thomas — once considered a Wales international in the making — has taken a step back from professional rugby with a move to Aberavon in the Welsh Premiership.
Still only 27, the 6ft 3in, 18st 8lb prop has signed to play for the Wizards and taken a job outside the game.
“It’s great to have Nicky on board,” said Aberavon head coach Jason Hyatt.
“He contacted us in the summer asking if we looking for a tight-head.
“We have two other excellent No. 3s in Geraint James and Chris Davies, but if you carry just two players in that position, you only need an injury and you have problems.
“So we’re delighted to have signed Nicky.
“He and his partner have just had their first baby and Nicky has started a new job outside the game, working for a company based in Cardiff. He was looking for a club where he could just enjoy his rugby, and Aberavon fits the bill.
“He’s just turned 27, has a lot of experience and is a strong scrummager.”
Rewind to 2013 and hopes were high that Thomas would break through in a big way on the senior scene. The tight-head helped Wales reach the Junior World Championship final that year, with his power scrummaging to the fore.
There was a belief among some that he would kick on and potentially play senior international rugby, but the script hasn’t worked out that way, with Thomas spending time at a number of different clubs, his career to date featuring two spells at the Ospreys and one apiece at Gloucester, Scarlets and Bristol, with a loan stint at the Dragons fitted in as well.
The Ospreys and Thomas agreed to part ways this time with the Welsh region having four other tightheads on their books in Tomas Francis, Tom Botha, Ma’afu Fia and Rhys Henry.
But Aberavon, who have previously helped Justin Tipuric, Ashley Beck, Adam Beard and Jac Morgan on their rugby journeys, are hopeful Thomas will deliver for them.
“Nicky played for us during his first stint with the Ospreys and he enjoyed it,” said Hyatt.
“I haven’t spent a lot of time working with him, but what I do know is he’s very good set-piece operator.
“I remember taking him to Cardiff a few years ago when Marc Breeze, our forwards coach now, was then playing for Cardiff at hooker.
“We did a real job on them that night in the scrums.
“They couldn’t handle us and we won the game on the back of our work in that area.
“Marc said afterwards that in all his time in rugby that was the most powerful display he’d ever faced with Nicky on the tighthead.”
Hyatt continued: “The first thing we want is for Nicky to enjoy his rugby again.
“He’s had a turbulent time, moving between clubs, but I know he loved the atmosphere at Aberavon.
“Maybe at this point in his career some time in the semi-pro game will help him along his journey.
“Really, he’s young enough to go back into the pro game. In fact, he’s young enough to go as far as he wants. It’s up to Nicky. He still has that potential.”
Aberavon were impressed by a youngster who featured for them in the friendly defeat against Ebbw Vale last weekend, with Dan Edwards catching the eye with his speed and skill from fly-half.
The teenager from the Ospreys is the son of former Wizards flanker David Edwards.
“Considering it was Dan’s first game for us, he fitted in nicely and I know Ospreys development manager Gareth Walters thinks well of him,” said Hyatt.
“He has been placed with us for a year to develop and if he works hard things could start to happen for him. He has electric pace from a standing start, seems to have a good kicking game, makes his tackles, carries the ball to the gain-line and has a bit of spark.
““He has Aled Thomas to nurture him and bring him on.
“Aled is at the forefront of 10s in the Premiership and has had a great summer, getting himself into exceptional condition. Dan could learn a host of things from Aled.”
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