Wales legend Gareth Thomas has revealed the hardest opponents he ever played against were All Blacks hard men Frank Bunce and Walter Little – who punched him 10 times in the face during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
“I feel I am lucky. I went through both the amateur and professional eras and, trust me, in the amateur era I played against some pretty tough-arsed people,” said Thomas.
“I went to the 1995 World Cup – God, I’m old – and my second game for Wales was against New Zealand. That All Blacks team had Jonah Lomu, who had burst on the scene in that World Cup.
“I played in the centre against Frank Bunce and Walter Little. I was 19 years of age and really learning, playing against them two. I remember Alec Evans said to me ‘you are the young up and coming guy and you need to get stuck into these aging Bunce and Little’.
“I remember hitting one of them a bit late after the ball and before I knew it he had punched me about 10 times in the face, before I could blink!
“I realised ‘you know what, you’ve got to earn your stripes at this level’.
“To play against a centre partnership like that and to realise it’s a very difficult environment to be in and you have to be tough, you have to be skillful, you have to be streetwise, I learned a lot that day.”
10 Worst Foreign Signings in Premiership History
Some exciting Gallagher Premiership imports, no matter the pedigree of the player, simply don’t work out…
1. Jeremy Paul (Gloucester)
What a corker to start off with. The Wallabies legend and World Cup winner joined the club on a three-year contract back in 2007.
However, what started off as an exciting signing turned into an expensive mistake for the Cherry & Whites, who have got next to nothing out of the hooker who will have cost them a lot of money.
He played only one Premiership game for Glaws in his one season at Kingsholm, departing by mutual consent in July, 2008.
2. Demetri Catrakilis (Harlequins)
The highly-rated South African fly-half made the move to England to join Premiership side Harlequins prior to the 2017–2018 season. However, he’d make just 13 appearances for the club over two seasons unfortunately dominated by injury. He then left Quins to join Pro 14 side Izuzu Southern Kings
3. Radike Samo (Newcastle Falcons)
Falcons announced in May 2004 that the Brumbies loose forward had signed on a two-year deal, believed to be worth £150,000 per season. However, the recently-capped Wallaby got cold feet and pulled out of the move claiming he’d only ever signed a letter of intent. Rob Andrew was adamant at the time that agreement to join the Falcons was binding.