A tenuous link perhaps but somehow it would be rather fitting if Richard Thorpe’s debut for London Welsh came in Berkshire.
Having been forced to sit out the Exiles’ winning start to the season due to injury, the flanker, who spent nine seasons at London Irish, is hoping to feature in Justin Burnell’s plans for Saturday’s B&I Cup clash with London Scottish at Monks Lane (kick-off 2:30pm).
Thorpe, who joined Welsh in the summer from Leicester Tigers, made over 100 appearances for London Irish but a broken arm suffered in his final season at the Madejski Stadium-based club hampered his one season at Welford Road and delayed his start to life at Welsh.
“It was very, very frustrating, particularly as I was expecting to be fit by the middle of June,” said Thorpe. “Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and I had to do my own rehab and wait for my arm to heal.
“It’s been fantastic to see the start London Welsh have made to the season and I’m really looking forward to contributing to that for the remainder of the season.”
Given the all clear at the end of September, Thorpe is now keen to make up for lost time, but he’s well aware that forcing his way into a Welsh pack, where competition for places is fierce, isn’t going to be easy.
“There is a lot of competition in the back row. Carl Kirwan’s playing very well at seven and so is Mike Denbee. Mitch Lees and Dan Browne are also going very well, so there’s going to be a lot of competition, but it’s good to have that competition.
“Everyone is going to have to be at the top of their game if they’re going to make selection. It is a pressure, but it’s a good pressure to have.
“Our pack beginning to develop quite a formidable reputation. We were able to go to Rotherham and exert dominance, and Rotherham typically have a very dominant pack. That’s a credit to the boys. I can’t wait to get involved and start contributing to that.”
Thorpe may be hoping to make his debut for Welsh on Saturday, but he might have joined the club last summer. He spent a week training at Old Deer Park before joining the Tigers.
“Leicester got their hands on me first,” says Thorpe, who made ten appearances for the Tigers, before having to undergo surgery on his arm.
“I really enjoyed my experience at Leicester and getting out of the hustle and bustle of London, but it’s nice to come back down to London and get my teeth sunk into a new club,” he said.
It was at London Irish, though, that Thorpe made his name. He spent three years at the club’s Academy before making his senior debut in October 2006 against London Wasps in the EDF Energy Cup.
“London Irish gave me my first real shot in professional rugby. I had a very good career there and I’m very grateful to them for that opportunity. It’s quite rare now that you get a player who’ll spend that length of time at one club and I owe a lot to London Irish,” said Thorpe.
Arriving at London Welsh in the summer, Thorpe has been impressed by what he’s seen so far, and now he’s just keen to start contributing.
“Justin’s [Burnell] brought with him new ideas and a new way of running a squad, and it’s worked very well. The recruitment has been very strong; some key players left at the end of last season, but we’ve brought in some serious players,” he said.
“We can pretty much field any fifteen across the squad and we’re going to be very competitive. That’s testament to the recruitment and the environment that Justin and all of the players have been able to create – it’s a very positive place to come in to work, particularly for me having been injured.
“It’s been a very frustrating time in my rugby career, but turning up to a club where you’re winning, people have smiles on their faces and there’s a really good environment makes it that much easier.”