Thomas dreams of Wembley


Crusaders winger Gareth Thomas is dreaming of playing at Wembley – and is happy for the world to know it.

It would be a remarkable achievement were Thomas to reach the Carnegie Challenge Cup final just months after his switch from rugby union.

It would also be a sensational story for Thomas’s Crusaders RL team if they reached Wembley on Saturday August 28.

Before then, however, there is the small matter of Sunday’s fifth round tie at home to Catalans Dragons at the Racecourse Ground, a match that sees two non-English clubs contest a last-16 tie for the first time in the Challenge Cup’s 113-year history.

But, after the Crusaders’ rousing Magic Weekend victory over Bradford at Murrayfield last Saturday, Thomas admits a trip to Wembley is a possibility he’s relishing.

“A lot of players don’t want to jinx things by talking about Wembley but I’m not shy enough to think about that,” said Thomas. “I’m happy to say that it would be a dream come true to play there.

“I played at Wembley a few times with Wales but it would be awesome to go back with this bunch of boys and for these fans.

“It would be something special that I’d be able to look back on long after my career is over.”

Thomas scored his second Rugby League try in the previous round against Championship One side York City Knights and is hoping to add to that total in a match which will see him not short of motivation.

The former rugby union Lion made his Rugby League debut against the French club in March but can’t remember it at all after getting concussed early in the game.

He said: “I can remember the warm-up and that’s it. Hopefully this time I can get through 80 minutes.

“I’m looking forward to it but I know they are a dangerous team. The boys have been telling me that Catalans get better as the season goes on, as the weather warms up and the grounds get harder, so we will have to be on our guard.”

Despite growing up in a rugby union stronghold, Thomas was always aware of the Challenge Cup.

He said: “I knew a lot about it because it was the FA Cup of Rugby League and it was usually the only Rugby League I got to watch on TV.

“I always enjoyed watching the finals and can still vividly remember Martin Offiah’s length of the field try against Leeds in 1994.

“I also remember Ellery Hanley’s tries, but never in a million years did I think that I would end up playing in the same competition.”

Thomas won just about everything in his glittering union career but insists he’s getting just as big a thrill out of playing in the Carnegie Challenge Cup.

He said: “Rugby union used to have a domestic competition like this before it went professional.

“Afterwards it stopped which was a real shame because there’s something special about knockout competition where everyone has a chance of lifting the cup.”