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Jonathan Thomas hails impact of England star on Worcester debut

By PA

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Worcester head coach Jonathan Thomas saluted an “exceptional” performance by scrum-half recruit Willi Heinz after the Warriors eased past Gallagher Premiership opponents London Irish.

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England international Heinz scored a try on his league debut for Worcester, having arrived alongside more than a dozen newcomers at Sixways this summer.

And the 34-year-old wasted little time making an impact, claiming Worcester’s second touchdown and then creating Worcester’s bonus-point try for number eight Matt Kvesic.

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“I thought Willi was exceptional,” Thomas said.

“He is a really experienced player, with his Crusaders background in New Zealand and international rugby. His personality is one that he wants to help people grow.

“He is invaluable to us as a player and as a person.”

Worcester’s 36-24 victory was their first on-pitch Premiership win since beating Irish in November last year, with all of their other league victories last season being coronavirus-related forfeits.

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Flanker Sam Lewis, full-back Melani Nanai and wing Perry Humphreys also crossed for Worcester, with Wales international fly-half Owen Williams kicking four conversions and a penalty.

Thomas added: “First and foremost, at the start of a season, a win is very important, and a bonus point is the cherry on the cake.

“It was a start. We are not getting carried away with that at all. There is a huge amount of growth and much more to come as a team.

“Winning is a habit, but losing is a habit, and to break that habit is tougher than you think.

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“There is a lot of feelgood factor around the club, but you have still got to win rugby matches, and that is easier said than done.”

Worcester head to the home of Premiership champions Harlequins next weekend and Thomas said: “There is nothing to lose.

“They are champions, no-one is going to expect us to win at The Stoop, but let’s just focus on ourselves. Potentially, we have got an exciting team that is going to grow over time.”

Irish scored tries for wing Ollie Hassell-Collins, number eight Albert Tuisue and a double by substitute prop Ollie Hoskins, but Paddy Jackson had an off-day from the goalkicking tee, landing two conversions, and they never seriously threatened to halt Worcester’s momentum.

They also lost scrum-half Ben White to the sin-bin just before half-time and Worcester posted two tries in his absence.

Irish rugby director Declan Kidney said: “You can see a lot of the good things we did today and the scores we conceded, we can manage those.

“We got four tries and probably left one or two behind.

“It is a great league and there is no place for hiding. Errors are errors and these things happen, but I thought our attitude was spot-on.”

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Jonathan Thomas hails impact of England star on Worcester debut

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