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Gareth Thomas invokes some memorable debuts [Mar. 24th, 2010|12:55 pm]
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I don't know whether Gareth Thomas will make a rugby league player - and there certainly wasn't enough evidence one way or the other at Wrexham on Friday night - but you can't fault the bloke for willingness.

He's not afraid to put his head where it hurts. Indeed, he only put it where it hurts - usually into the biggest available French forward.

Maybe that was why he spent so much time at dummy half; less a plan to get him involved than a target for a groggy newcomer to head for.

Not only that, but he fronted up at the press conference afterwards, eager to talk about his experience, if slightly confused about what that experience had actually involved.

Good luck to him, I think he sincerely wants to play the game.

His first appearance, however, put me in mind of other ill-fated rugby league debuts.

Just last season there was the Dwayne Chambers circus at Castleford, where a hand-picked York A team seemed to be under instructions not to hurt him.

One I will always remember is Terry Holmes' debut for Bradford at Swinton, when he was on his way to hospital a few minutes into the first half. It was a huge signing and a huge story at the time, but he never really recovered from that first game.

I also recall the bizarre sight of Stuart Evans on the pitch being taught how to play the ball before his debut for St Helens. He never did really get the hang of it.

Old-timers tell me, however, that the one to see was McDonald Bailey's one and only match for Leigh in 1953.

The sprint champion scored a try in a specially arranged friendly against Wigan, but never fancied taking the field again.

Thomas is going to make more of an impact than all of the above, once he masters the art of keeping his head out of the way.

How much more depends on how well the rest of his body holds up in what he now realises is a tougher, more confrontational game than he is used to - certainly for an outside back.

There is a general desire for him to succeed, but, if he does, it will not be through doing things the easy way.