Position: Back Row
|Place Of Birth||Swansea|
Born: 1871, Swansea
Died: 7 March 1910, Swansea
Clubs: Mansleton Rangers, Mynyddbach, Morriston, Swansea
Honours: Wales (4 caps, 1900-01)
Born in 1871, Robert "Bob" Thomas was a forward who played on 4 occasions for Wales between 1900 and 1901, including in the 3 ‘Triple Crown’ matches of 1900. Bob made his debut for Swansea in 1890, breaking into the first fifteen in 1893 and announced his retirement at the end of the 1900/01 season. He started his rugby career with Mansleton Rangers where future Swansea and Wales forwards the brothers Dai and Jack Samuel also played. Moving on to the strong district club Mynyddbach, he shone as a promising forward there until the demise of that club. Bob Thomas then played for Morriston briefly before being collared by Swansea for the 1890-91 season. For two seasons he impressed with the second fifteen before joining the seniors in 1893 under the captaincy of Charlie Coke. It was a difficult time for the Swansea club who had lost their attacking edge following the loss of the Brothers James at half-back, suspended by the WFU and RFU. But as Swansea rebuilt, Bob Thomas showed his strength and skills as a scrummager and ball carrier. He was noted as a dangerous player with ball in hand could pass as well as most three-quarters. But it was as a powerhouse amongst the forwards that Bob won recognition. A character sketch written when he won his first cap in 1900 read: “He puts all his energies into his play in the scrummage, never shirking the stiff mauls, and is not seen sneaking outside the pack like the would-be players who are more ornamental than useful, and who enlist fictitious applause and encomiums for getting the ball from those who have previously done the hard and genuine scrummaging.” At 5’9” (1.76m) and 12st 7lb (79.3kg) he was a deadly tackler and always followed up well in any attacking move, often on hand to score. He also possessed great power and endurance, which he showed at Gloucester against the much vaunted English forwards in 1900. The Swansea club wanted to honour the player who had been ‘an honest Swansea scrummager for several seasons’ with ‘badges’ to the value of £10. The Welsh Union would not sanction the presentation and the rugby writer ‘Argus’ in the Cambrian was so incensed he wrote “The Welsh Rugby Union is not endowed with a superabundance of common sense … its decisions are often bewildering, such as no fellah can understand”. A long serving Swansea player, he had to wait till 1900 for his first cap which came at Gloucester against England. He had however the satisfaction of winning caps in the two following games against Scotland and Ireland in Wales'' second Triple Crown triumph that year. His 4th and last cap followed again consecutively, in 1901 against England at Cardiff in which Wales were again winners and he finished his Swansea career at the end of the 1900-01 season with Swansea Champions for the third successive season. A head Injury sustained that season had hastened his decision to hang up his boots. Bob Thomas was a steel tube mill man by trade at the Mannesmann Tube Works in Landore, Swansea. A severe injury at work in 1905, when a pair of tongs went through his right palm, was also a factor in his premature death, scarring him mentally as well as physically and probably contributed to his early death at Brynhyfryd on 7th March 1910 aged just 39. He died just the day before Swansea and Wales three-quarter Dai Gwynn and on 12th march Swansea seconds played Ysylyfera, wearing black arm bands as a mark of respect for two Swansea greats of the game.
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