Kear in awe of childhood hero Thomas

Crusaders’ Welsh international full-back Elliot Kear says that it’s “surreal” to be playing alongside one of his childhood heroes Gareth Thomas.

Kear, Thomas and the rest of the Crusaders squad are preparing to play an engage Super League match back in South Wales this Thursday when they take on Harlequins at The Gnoll in Neath (kick-off 7.30pm).

It will be the Crusaders’ first game in South Wales since last September and Kear says that the southern-based fans will see a completely different Crusaders side when they turn up in their thousands on Thursday night.

“I think that the South Wales public will see a massive difference in the Crusaders team,” said the 21-year old. “They’ll see a lot better drilled side for a start. I think the team is a lot closer this year, we’re competing a lot better against the other sides and having a new coaching team has been a really big boost.

“It’s helped loads to have Iestyn Harris on board. He’s always giving me little tips and trying to help me out as much as possible. I’m always improving my game because of him.”

Kear, who started his senior rugby league career with Cardiff Demons aged just 18, has played just 12 games of professional rugby league so far, eight for Crusaders and four for Wales, so is still learning the game. However he has found it strange to be the “senior” player over new signing Gareth Thomas.

Thursday will see Thomas’ first ever rugby league appearance in South Wales and Kear has been proud to help out the great man, 14 years his senior, as he learns his trade in the 13-man game.

“It’s all a bit surreal really,” Kear admits. “One of the first rugby games that I went to at the old Arms Park saw Gareth scoring a length of the field try against Australia. I remember when he signed for Cardiff Blues a few years after that, he always played full-back for Wales and was in that position when they won the Grand Slam.

“I’m a full-back and he’s always a player that I’ve looked up to as he’s achieved so much in his rugby union career, so him signing for the Crusaders is massive. I know Gareth wants to learn a lot about rugby league and he’s been pushed in the deep end a bit, but like all the other players, I help him out where I can. I’ve got a little bit more experience in rugby league than him but not a massive amount, so yes I give him a lot of tips where I can when he’s on the wing and I’m at full-back and yes it is a bit weird.”

Kear made his professional debut against Leeds Rhinos last year and soon followed that up by playing four games for Wales and scored three tries on their road to winning the European Cup.

“The Leeds game was very memorable for me,” he said. “I remember the players coming up to me after the game and patting me on the back saying ‘well done’. Then they told me in the changing rooms that I was players player of the match and I was over the moon. It was my first Super League game and I’d made that big tackle of Scott Donald. It was euphoria that night.

“The latter end of last year just went so quick for me. It was the first season that I played for Wales and we ended up being European Champions. I knew a lot of the lads as we’d played together at the Crusaders. We all gelled really well in the month that we were together and Iestyn Harris coached us really well along with Clive Griffiths. I think we deserved the trophy in the end as we were the best side.”

Tickets for Crusaders v Harlequins, which will see Gareth Thomas’ first appearance in a Crusaders shirt in South Wales, can be bought by going to www.crusadersrfl.com or by calling 0871 221 9511. Prices start from £4 for juniors and £8 for adults.

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