Coach Ryan heaps praise on new boy Jonathan Thomas
DEAN Ryan has lauded Jonathan Thomas and told the Ospreys if they have any more players like him for transfer he'd be more than willing to talk to them.
Thomas left the Liberty for Sixways in the summer, bringing to an end a 10-season stint at the Welsh region.
Ryan wasted no time making him captain for the friendly with the Ospreys, and Thomas rewarded him with a typically hard-working show which galvanised those around him and showed Worcester's director of rugby how right he had been to pursue the 30-year-old when he became available earlier this year.
"He's facing a new challenge, having spent pretty much all his life in rugby here in Swansea, but he's an outstanding player and he's responded to that challenge fantastically," said Ryan after the Ospreys' 23-19 win over his side in last weekend's friendly.
"He brings ability, he brings leadership and he's a bloody good bloke. He also has 70 caps of experience.
"You can't get a much better combination for being involved in a senior group within a club.
"I've been delighted with him. I've been up front with him about the challenge. I'm just really happy he's on board."
Thomas had a year left on his contract at the Ospreys but financial constraints forced the region to release him. He had been linked with a move to France the previous year, but turned it down. Then came the news that the Ospreys were willing to let him go.
"I've been in that situation," said Ryan.
"Life's a conveyor belt and sometimes to develop others, players move on.
"It doesn't mean that they can't add value. I'm delighted (with Thomas). If they've got a few more they wish to get off the conveyor belt, I'd be delighted to talk to them." Moving to the Aviva Premiership is a new chapter for Pembrokeshire-born Thomas, who had previously played all his rugby in Wales – first with Swansea, before becoming one of the founder members of the Ospreys' squad in 2003.
He gave the region immense service for a decade, becoming their joint-appearance record holder with 188 outings and maintaining a consistently high standard.
Had he wanted he could have played hard ball and stayed put when the Ospreys, with a surfeit of options in the back row, indicated they needed to free up cash to strengthen other positions.
But Thomas is better than that, with the 67-cap forward opting to take up a new challenge instead of digging his heels in at the Liberty.
"It certainly wasn't a financial decision for me to join Worcester," he said.
"Had it been I probably would have stayed where I was.
"I started playing rugby because I loved playing the game. You read everywhere these days about people moving for money, but people don't start playing the game for money. The majority of rugby players still play because they love playing the sport.
"Yes, there's money to be made in this day and age, especially in leagues like France, but, really, you just want to be playing at the top of your game.
"I made the decision after speaking to Dean. If I'm honest I wasn't 100 per cent sure I was going to leave the Ospreys.
"But after speaking to Dean I was convinced there and then that it was the right time for me to move.
"It was obviously a difficult decision to make. After being at a club for so long, you make a lot of friends and feel very loyal to the club. It was a tough decision, but I decided at this stage of my career I needed the change.
"There were a few other things happening and going on behind the scenes. But now I just want to look to the future.
"Worcester have outstanding facilities and are a great club, a bit of a sleeping giant.
"They've underachieved a fair bit in the past. But we're working hard as a group and Dean has come in and created an excellent environment. I've been around long enough to know the difference between good and bad environments, and the one Dean is creating is outstanding."
Thomas was asked how it felt to lead Worcester against the region he served with such distinction.
"A lot of people have asked me that," he replied.
"But, for me, the proudest thing was to lead Worcester.
"I went to the club two months ago and didn't know anyone or anything about them, but I've already made some great friends. They're a special group of people and I was really proud to lead them and to be offered the captaincy was a real honour.
"Yes, it was a bit strange and bizarre to come back so soon. I have so many friends at the Ospreys and it was great to catch up with them. But I'm just really excited about what lies ahead with Worcester."