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Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter writes

Posted Tuesday, August 3rd 2021

Yann Thomas: A Bristolian Bear

Yann Thomas’ class and consistency during the 2020/21 season may have slipped quietly under the radar of many, but not his peers.

The Bristolian loosehead appeared in 19 out of 22 Gallagher Premiership fixtures last season, showcasing his dependability and versatility throughout, culminating in being named the club’s Forward of the Year at the end of season awards.

Voted for by the coaching team, the accolade was recognition for Thomas’ contributions to the Bears’ most successful top-flight campaign, which saw them finish top of the pile before slipping to a heart-breaking semi-final defeat at the hands of Harlequins.

But despite the plaudits, the 31-year-old was quick to pay tribute to his fellow Bears heavyweights.

“I was a little bit taken aback, to be honest – I did not expect it, but it’s always nice to win an award,” he said.

“I look at it as more of a reflection of what the forwards did collectively last season, as opposed to an individual accolade. As I’ve said, we’ve got such a great culture here, it doesn’t matter what position you are in, the boys are always helping each other out and pushing each other on.

“It doesn’t put any additional pressure on me heading into the new season. I'm very comfortable with who I am as a person and a player. I would probably like to think the boys would say the same as well, and any players, it doesn't matter who you are, whether you are an 18-year-old Academy lad just coming up, or if you’re one of the senior boys, I'm always the same person so it doesn't matter who you are, that’s who I am.”

"It’s those habits on a day-to-day basis – I come in, what does my day look like? What is my preparation and how can I make sure I get all of my stuff right? If you do that consistently, the rest will take care of itself.”

Yann Thomas

As with all professional sport, the devil is in the detail and Thomas is focused on ensuring his day-to-day habits enable him to perform at the required level. For the former Nailsea and Backwell RFC player, who grew up just a stone’s throw from Ashton Gate, it’s the small things that make a big difference.

“I think the key thing for me last season was looking at it as – and again this is this is another learning thing and a great tool that Pat always puts out there for the boys - what do I do well and what can I do better?

“For me, being a front row forward, I know the scrum is my number one job - I have to scrum well. As long as I do my job, I know no one else has to worry about me, and that’s how I went about it last season. I didn’t get caught up in overthinking anything – if you do, it can throw you off a little bit.

“But coming back to it, it’s those habits on a day-to-day basis – I come in, what does my day look like? What is my preparation and how can I make sure I get all of my stuff right? If you do that consistently, the rest will take care of itself.”

Thomas makes no secret of the disappointment and heartache of the semi-final defeat to Harlequins in June but insists the squad have responded well to the setback.

“We finished top of the Premiership and that was big goal of ours. Pat’s message was always to get to the top of the mountain, it was a phrase we used throughout the season. Then we got into the play-offs and said it was now about putting our flag in and cementing the legacy - obviously it wasn't to be for us last season, so it's something we’ve got to learn from and take into this season.

“We’re back into pre-season now, so we know it’s time to build on. I don't think we did a hell of a lot wrong last season, but that's semi-final rugby, anyone can win on the day. I think it was probably the nature of the defeat that hurt the boys the most.

“It is one of those things in sport and we just have to brush it off and get on with the next job. I think the boys have responded well in the last couple of weeks. The young lads have stepped up in training and we’ve got some new faces in the group too, as well as the international coming back as well. So, it feels like a fresh start, and we’ll be ready to go again when the new season starts.

“We always talk about it being a journey for everyone - good people come in and good people leave, but I think one of the great things here is that we keep that core group of players.

“We’ve got some great leaders in the team who drive everything we do, and because we’ve got a lot of the same faces from 2018, everyone understands the culture, the game plan and the way we operate. Everyone knows their role in the team and that’s how we’ve grown over the last four or five years.”

One thing is for sure, Yann Thomas knows his role in this Bears side inside out, but he’s not satisfied. With his focus on small habits, the prop is dreaming big again ahead of another fascinating season.


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