No one at Gloucester Rugby will have enjoyed the start of 2017 more than New Zealand international lock Jeremy Thrush. His try in the victory over Saracens followed his extravagant celebration of John Afoa’s own touchdown in the win over Worcester – two happier days for the All Black second row after he managed less than one full game in the first team until the turn of the year.
“I find I get into a rhythm with my game if I play every week” Thrush told me. ” I take pride in being out there and fronting up and I never like coming off, I was the same back home, even though it’s a different environment here with different competitions and having a bigger squad you do get more of a rest, which is something I’ve got to get my head around.”
His enforced rest over the first half of the season was eventually traced after an MRI scan on his back showed a bone spur which resulted in the nerve going down into his left leg “shutting off”, in Jeremy’s words, his left hamstring. He was able to run for about 20 minutes but then it would tighten up. An epidural saw a slow improvement until he made his return in the Challenge Cup defeat in France to La Rochelle.
Thrush’s leadership and drive from the second row was seen as a major asset when he arrived, but despite making 16 Premiership appearances last winter Gloucester couldn’t secure a Champions Cup place. A year on, and with the bearded Kiwi having missed a big chunk of rugby, Gloucester again find themselves outside the top six looking in but Thrush can see progress in a squad only changed on the fringes in the summer.
“We have matured over the last year, even though everyone wants progress to be faster” he went on. “We are finding a style we can play and perform well in, even if it means not holding onto the ball for long periods but kicking and putting teams under pressure. Winning is contagious and it can cover flaws when the game isn’t pretty. When you lose, those little things stick out. I feel we are moving forward and the challenge is to maintain high standards every week by every individual being hard on themselves in terms of what they need to do.”
Thrush paid tribute to the Kingsholm medical team for the dedication in getting him back both physically fit and in the right frame of mind to push himself and those in his position.
“Over the last six months the players have taken more ownership of what we are doing, not only in games but also in training” he said. “When I first arrived it was a quiet group. If you give people that ownership they take pride in it, and that has come out in meetings when we look at the opposition. We’ve certainly not lost hope in terms of where we want to go this year.”
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