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'The danger when you get stick is you don't talk to people...'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Jonathan Thomas has insisted he won’t stop communicating with Worcester fans despite his team’s recent run of painful Gallagher Premiership results. The Warriors have been tormented by Exeter, Leicester and Northampton in successive outings, conceding 156 points and 23 tries while managing a paltry 18 points and two tries in reply. It’s a worrying state of affairs for the club whose player roster was overhauled in the off-season after they finished last season rooted to the bottom with just a single on-field win. 

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That arrived in the opening match of last year’s campaign, Worcester defeated London Irish at Sixways, and the hope was that they would push on much better this time around having started this latest campaign with another home win over the Exiles.  

However, rather than shut up shop and opt to say little or nothing about the downturn in the Worcester results since then, Thomas remains committed to vocalising the Warriors message with the rookie head coach even admitting he replies to some fans via direct message on social media about the criticism they have posted. 

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I am really aware that when you lose you are going to get a load of stick,” said former Wales back-rower Thomas to RugbyPass ahead of this Saturday’s visit of Sale to Worcester. “As an international player it is just what you deal with and you know when you are a Welsh player you are going to get loads of stick if you don’t perform. 

“That is always something I have had to deal with and that is part of being a professional. I have been through lots of adversity in my life on and off the field and the big thing is just sticking to the process, knowing that if you work hard, that if you have got a really clear plan and a clear process and you get the right people around you, you have got a huge chance of always coming through that adversity, taking ownership of your mistakes and taking responsibility.

 

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“That is the biggest thing. The danger when you get stick is you don’t talk to people. When I get a bit of stick on social media I’ll sometimes reply to them directly and sometimes it is agreeing with the fans when they say to you, ‘It is not acceptable’. The reply is, ‘Listen, I am 100 per cent with you. We understand it is not acceptable’.

“Trying to communicate your message is important because you are only under pressure if you haven’t got a plan. That is when you are in trouble and we have got a really clear plan of what is going on. From what I inherited in January I knew the size of the task and I communicated that at the time to the owners.

“I knew there would be a lot of tough times to go through but I am also really clear that we are going to come through it with the people that we are getting in the room. There is still a long way to go in terms of recruitment and retention, which is an ongoing thing, but we are going in the right direction. It’s just now about delivering in the field. 

It was last May when Worcester announced the recruitment of “ideal fit” Jonny Bell, the ex-Ireland midfielder, to take charge of their defence. Having worked previously at Gloucester and Glasgow, he arrived with a reputable reputation as an assistant but the past few weeks have surely been difficult for him seeing the Warriors rearguard repeatedly breached. 

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“He is an infectious character,” said Thomas. “You turn up on a Monday, everyone, staff and players, are all hurting and that is where you need each other to get through it. The spirit is still good within the camp, players and staff. But Jonny is a proud man, as we all are, and he is passionate about defence.

“He is an outstanding coach and he is disappointed but is not just about the defence, it is about how we are exiting, the errors we are making in our own half, our kicking game, turning the ball over on attack. It is the whole thing at the moment, it is not one person’s issue. Everyone is taking ownership of that but Jonny is a good man as are Mark Jones and Mark Irish. There are good people in the club and everyone is working hard to try and put it right.”

 

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