Bristol Bears hooker Harry Thacker has spoken out against an alarming trend of young players chasing size in order to make the grade in an interview with the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

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Thacker was told at his former club Leicester that he was too small to make it as a front rower in the professional game.

“A fair few coaches there told me I was too small. I never really felt they trusted me to do a job.”

He said the Leicester Tigers culture was based on using a big pack to run over the opposition, which didn’t fit his game.

“I felt like I was always fighting a losing battle at Leicester.”

Thacker has thrived at Bristol in the Premiership under Pat Lam, scoring six tries in his last seven outings this season.

“I get a lot of messages from kids at 14, 15, 16 on Instagram saying: “I’m being told that I need to put as much weight on as possible; what did you do”?’, he said

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“I’ve sat down with a few boys going through the system. I’m a strong believer that, if you’re good enough, you should be there. The weight will come. I don’t think guys at 14 should be smashing the gym.

“There’s a lot of pressure for youngsters to be bigger, stronger, faster,’ he said.

‘There’s probably more focus on that than their core skills. Passing, tackling, stuff like that.

“There is a lot of pressure and I think it’s directed at the wrong things. When you’re 18, 19, 20 is when your major growth should occur. Not at 16.”

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Thacker admitted his own approach was similar when he was growing up, but it came at a cost of playing his own way.

“I put on as much weight as I could put on — to the point I wasn’t as able to play the game I wanted to play.”

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