Gareth Thomas: 'My best memory comes from Murrayfield'

The former union star plays at a familiar ground today for the Super League fraternity's annual celebration

Gareth Thomas may be the least experienced rugby league player in action in Edinburgh this weekend, but he is the only one who has lost count of the number of appearances he has made at Murrayfield. In his previous life, Thomas played there for Wales, Cardiff and Toulouse.

"I couldn't even tell you how many times, but probably more than 10, and I have some good memories," he says. "We won a Grand Slam there, had another game where we were 30-odd points ahead at half-time and could relax and enjoy the second half, and I played there for Cardiff against Edinburgh. I also won a European Cup there with Toulouse, which is my best club memory."

One thing Thomas never expected was to be going back there as a rugby league player. He does so as a member of the Wrexham-based Crusaders side, who kick off the Murrayfield Magic weekend by playing Bradford today in the first of seven Super League matches. For the man who won a record 100 caps for Wales, it will take his total of league games to half a dozen. "It's bound to be a bit special for me going back to Murrayfield, a place with so much history. Also, it's not the biggest ground, so if you have a decent crowd there's always a good atmosphere."

It is anybody's guess how many will be there to see Thomas and his Crusaders line up against the Bulls, but there will certainly not be the full house he has played in front of at Murrayfield in the past. As a newcomer to the game, however, he has no doubts that the event is worthwhile: "Rugby league is a great game, as I've found, but it tends to be confined to a small area. Anything that takes it to a new audience has to be a good thing. It's difficult for fans and players having to travel, but the game will benefit in the long term."

Despite being keen to emphasise his novice status, Thomas has undeniably made progress since his debut against the Catalan Dragons in March. That day, he paid the painful price for trying to run head-first through some of the French side's biggest forwards. By contrast, his first try, against Wakefield in April, highlighted the footwork that makes him such an effective finisher. "I'm far from the complete rugby league player yet, but with every training session and every match I'm learning," he explains. "It was good to get that first try, because as a winger you're judged a bit like a striker in football, by whether you're scoring or not. The main thing is that I'm contributing to the team."

Defence has been a rather thornier issue for the 35-year-old. There have been times where his inexperience has seen him pulled out of position. "There is a difference, but it's a good difference, because you have to concentrate more on the game," he says. "In union, you might get five or 10 minutes on the wing where you don't have to do anything. In league, you can't ever do that, because there are people ready to exploit it if you clock off for a moment."

For all his enthusiasm for his new code, Thomas is only committed to this season, with another season's option after that. He says that he is so absorbed in what he is doing that he hasn't thought beyond this year. One thing he says will not influence any decision is the fact that, while he was never aware of any homophobic hostility in union, he has suffered it on one occasion in his short career in league. That was at Castleford in his second game, where, as the highest-profile rugby player of either code to come out as openly gay, he was given a hard time by a section of the home supporters.

Thomas has been heartened by the general condemnation of that bigotry, from the club and from the game as a whole: "I don't really want to highlight an isolated incident. I've been to Wakefield and Bradford since then and there's been no problem at all."

Nor has there been any problem with opposition players. "League players have been great and I've had some good talks about the game. Rugby's a fraternity, whether it's league or union, and everyone pretty much gets on."

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power