Thomas confirms cross-code Crusaders switch
March 5, 2010
Gareth Thomas has completed the switch to rugby league © PA Photos
Wales' record caps-holder Gareth Thomas has ended speculation about his future by switching codes and joining the Crusaders Super League side.
Thomas, who won 100 caps for Wales and three for the British & Irish Lions, leaves Cardiff Blues to take up a contract until the end of the year, with an option for a further 12 months.
Thomas is a high-profile scoop for the Crusaders, who are currently tenth in the Super League table with two wins from their opening four games. The Heineken Cup-winner is in line for a debut against Catalans Dragons on March 19 and has dismissed fears over his age and lack of experience in the 13-man code.
"I've still got a hunger to play," Thomas said. "I don't want to be sitting in the stand, I want to be out on the field. I don't want to be shouting at someone, I want to be the one to be shouted at. That's where my passion lies. I'm as hungry as I was when I was 18.
"I wouldn't expect to come here on a two-year contract. It's new for me and obviously there's going to be some scepticism from both parties, but it's another incentive for me to be successful because I want to be here for two years. When I first played for Wales back in 1995, I had a couple of options to go to rugby league then but obviously rugby union was what I cared for at that time.
"I think rugby league has turned into such an amazing sport now. It's a fantastic package that is very desirable for any rugby player of either code. I'm raring to go. It was the most exciting option, too exciting to turn down. I think a change is as good as a break. I've had a fantastic rugby union career and achieved a lot. Rugby league has always interested me and I'd like to be successful at it. I'd like to look back and say I gave it my best shot."
Crusaders coach Brian Noble does not believe that the move is a risk and is looking forward to seeing Thomas on the field sooner rather than later.
"I think Gareth Thomas is a fabulous player who has all the attributes to succeed in rugby league," he said. "He's big and he's strong, has great footwork and he is not afraid to put in a shift in defence either.
"His skill levels are phenomenal and he brings a wealth of experience that you just can't buy. He will add a lot to the team as well as improving the profile of the game here in Wales. He's got a couple of hard weeks in front of him but I fully anticipate him playing sooner rather than later."
Thomas made his Test debut for Wales at the 1995 Rugby World Cup and led them to a Grand Slam in 2005. Later that year he took the captain's armband for the Lions following a tour-ending injury to Irish centre Brian O'Driscoll. He was involved in a media storm following Wales coach Mike Ruddock's exit in 2006 but returned to international action and won his 100th Welsh cap at the 2007 World Cup. In December 2009 Thomas ended years of speculation by announcing that he is gay, receiving unanimous support from the rugby community.