Former Wales back row Jonathan Thomas has revisited the time at Bristol when Callum Sheedy – this weekend’s Grand Slam-chasing bench back-up to Dan Biggar in Paris – was behind Billy Searle in the pecking order at Bristol.

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Now the head coach at Worcester where Searle is among his out-half picks, Thomas earned his coaching stripes in the Bears set-up before switching to Sixways last year and he has now reflected on the differing developmental fortunes experienced by his current Warriors No.10 and Sheedy.

Searle was a frequent Bristol starter in the 2016/17 Premiership relegation season, a period when Sheedy headed to Championship outfit Jersey to get some game time, but the CVs both players now have read very differently.

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It was 2018 when Searle switched to Wasps where he suffered a dislocated ankle and fractured fibula in a freak collision against Bristol – of all teams – in February 2019, and he subsequently switched to Worcester last year during the lockdown.

In contrast to that unfortunate injury setback, Sheedy worked his way in Pat Lam’s plans at Bristol where he is now not only the No1 out-half pick with the current league leaders, he has also become an international in recent times, a recognition that includes his match-clinching scores against England last month.

While 25-year-old Sheedy is revelling in the highs, Searle, who celebrates his 25th birthday on March 25, is searching for a run of form at Worcester where he will bench on Saturday at Bath behind Fin Smith, the 18year-old who is making his first Premiership start.

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Thomas has every hope that Searle still has all the tools to become a long-term success. “I worked closely with Billy a few years ago at Bristol so I know what a quality player he is and the irony with him is when you look at someone like Callum Sheedy, Billy was ahead of him a number of years ago.

Callum went out on loan to Jersey and Billy was the first-choice there at Bristol. Then Billy went to Wasps and unfortunately had that really bad leg break which kept him out for pretty much most of the season and then he has come to us at Worcester.

“The big thing for Billy now is he needs to play every week. He needs to get consistency and confidence. What do I make of his progress? Billy has got high standards. He is happy with where he is at but he is not satisfied in the sense that he knows there is a lot more to come from himself over the next couple of years in terms of his game and his ability to influence games.

“Callum is a great lad and always has been,” continued Thomas. “They were at similar stages in their careers and Billy was ahead. Then Sheedy came back from Jersey a new man and obviously the rest is history. He has gone from strength to strength.

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What it shows is what young men need is regular game time and Billy, while he is a quality player, has unfortunately had his development hampered in the last couple of years because of injuries. He had that nasty one at Wasps, his leg break, and since he has come to us he had a little bit of an injury as well but he is all good now. He is firing and I’m sure he will have a strong finish to the season.”

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