Written by Joe Harvey | Photo by Brian Jackson
In Canada’s last-gasp 22-21 over Chile at the weekend in Langford, BC, Corey Thomas scored his second international try.
Scoring his first against the USA in Newfoundland at the start of September, the forward has already become an important part of Kingsley Jones’ squad as they look to gain Rugby World Cup qualification.
Ahead of a trip to Chile, the LA Giltinis player spoke to majorleague.rugby about a fairy tale season in California and what he is looking to bring to the Canada environment.
MOVING TO LA
It was while playing in Japan that the seed was sown for Thomas’ move to Major League Rugby. Representing the Kamaishi Seawaves while the 2019 Rugby World Cup was taking place in the country, Thomas met with former Canada hooker Ray Barkwill.
Qualifying for Canada as a result of his father having been born in Edmonton, that conversation with Barkwill led to an interview with Kingsley Jones and sparked a desire for the 27-year-old to pull on a red jersey.
After his time in Japan was cut short by Covid-19, Thomas’ agent presented an opportunity to move to the west coast in order to join MLR’s newest franchise, the LA Giltinis.
There, Thomas would be surrounded by some of the most famous names in rugby, the likes of Matt Giteau, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dave Dennis all driving the culture at the club, creating an environment that can only be described as a winning one.
Eventually winning the competition outright at the start of August, with Thomas starting at No.8 in the Championship Final, the Western Australian was grateful for the opportunity to share an environment with stalwarts of the game.
Photo by Davey Wilson
“That environment at LA was something that I will definitely cherish,” Thomas said. “Purely just from having amazing players around who have had the experience of being very successful, obviously Matt Giteau, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dave Dennis, the way they led the team, the way that they promoted positivity and confidence in each and every person, it was just a completely different environment.
“I learned so much, just from trying to create a winning environment and how the bonds can go onto the field, and it was just amazing. It is something that I will always cherish, just to have been around those guys and to be a part of the LA Giltinis with the season we have had.”
TAKING LEARNINGS FROM LA TO CANADA
It is that Giltinis environment that has inspired Thomas as he has stepped into international rugby.
One of 14 players to have made their debuts for Canada this year, Thomas is hoping that he can bring his experiences at LA, and further afield, to the Canada camp.
While new to the Canada setup, at the age of 27 Thomas is one of the most experienced players in the national team.
As a result, he has stepped up as a leader in these past few weeks and is looking to use some of the techniques that he experienced in LA to the Test match arena.
Photo by Brian Jackson
“A lot of us made our debuts this year and the camps are short, so we need to really. Focus on keeping the same boys around, making sure they are performing and creating an environment that way,” Thomas explained.
“Because it definitely can correlate, just trying to express that winning environment, especially on the field. It is a lot easier to do when you are with the same blokes for six months, but we have short blocks at a time, so we have got to work really hard on the morale of the team and trying to create that environment.
“That is something I am trying to help with and the great thing about the boys here is that you can’t fault their effort. Everyone is just working hard for each other, and we are really loving it.
“I am really hoping that we are starting to build that environment, and that is definitely what I am trying to do.”
Unlike the USA, Canada’s road to qualifying for the 2023 Rugby World Cup is a little different. Playing the loser of the Eagles and Uruguay two-legged qualifier, before maybe heading to another repechage tournament should they lose that next encounter.
It took a late winner from Houston’s Robbie Povey to secure a win over their South American rivals and given how impressive Chile were last weekend, it is likely to be another tough challenge this weekend in Valparaiso.
There have, of course, been consistent improvements by this Canada team since they first congregated in the summer. Gaining experiences together, Thomas is confident that he and his teammates will get the job done and move through to the next stage of qualification.
“We understand that we have just got to play our game,” Thomas said. “We don’t want to get too overwhelmed with the situation we are in and that is something we are well prepared for.
“We need to be prepared, play our footy and then just let the results come. At the end of the day, with these high pressure situations, you have just got to take it day by day, prepare, give it everything and make sure you do your job.”
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