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Player Profile: Malcolm Thomas

5th May 2004

Name: Malcolm Campbell Thomas Born: 25th April 1929Position: WingCountry: WalesClub: Devonport Services Club, Royal Navy, Newport, Monmouthshire, Barbarians

Malcolm Thomas is one of three 1950 Lions that came back to New Zealand on later Lions tours. However, he is the only one who returned as a player. Doug Smith was the manager of the successful 1971 team and John Robins was the assistant manager on the 1966 tour.

At the start of the 1950 tour, Malcolm was the youngest member of the party. He remained so until Lewis Jones came out as a replacement. Coincidentally, both of them were doing their National Service in the Royal Navy and were based at Devonport. As regular members of the Devonport Services rugby team, they knew each other well and were great pals.

Named after Malcolm Campbell, at that time the world record holder for the fastest speed on water, Thomas was born in 1929 at Machen, near Newport. He was educated at Bassaleg School before going onto Caerleon Technical College. In 1946, Malcolm started his long association with the Newport club. Turning out 280 times for them between 1946 and 1959, he scored 297 points for them. He was their captain for three seasons from 1954 through to 1957. Under his captaincy in the 1955-6 season, Newport won both the Welsh Club Championship and the Welsh Sevens. In that season, they only lost five of the 40 matches they played. In the same season Malcolm also captained Monmouthshire to Welsh Counties Cup.

With a flair for attacking opportunities, a strong runner and a resolute tackler when he came on the 1950 tour, Malcolm Thomas developed a further ability as a consistent place kicker. Indeed, in the first match on tour against Nelson-Marlborough-Golden Bay-Motueka Combined side, he set a world record by kicking six penalty goals, the most in a first-class match at that time. On the tour, he developed into a first-class utility player. With equal ease, Malcolm could play in any position in the backs outside the scrum half. At the end of the tour, he was the leading points scorer with 96 from 15 matches including three Tests (2 in New Zealand, 1 in Australia). This included the 21 points he scored in that first game in Nelson, which at the time was a match record for a Lion in New Zealand. He also scored a try to the six penalties he kicked. His pal, Lewis Jones, overtook him after the Ceylon match. However, this was not on of the official tour games.

Nine years later, he became the first Lion to take part in two tours to Australasia. Though he played in only one Test, the second in New Zealand, he set a new match record of 25 points, against the Combined Bays side again. They must have been glad that Malcolm had retired by time the Lions next came.

Malcolm Thomas may have added another record to his collection. In the 1954-5 season, he broke his leg and it did not mend in time for him to play before the selection of the tour party for the 1955 Lions to South Africa. As he was only 25 at the time, he would not have been affected by the Lions selectors policy of not taking anyone over 30 on tour. This meant that fellow 1950 tourists such as Jack Kyle, Bleddyn Williams, Rees Stephens, Vic Roberts, Noel Henderson and Ken Jones were not considered. If Malcolm had been fit and been selected for the 1955 tour, by 1959 he would have been the first person to have been picked for three Lions tours. However, he says himself that if he had gone on the ‘55 tour he would have declined the ’59 one.

In all, Malcolm Thomas played 27 times for Wales from1949 to 1959 and captained them twice in 1957. This included being part of two Grand Slam teams in 1949/50 and 1951/2. In this time, he scored 22 points including 4 tries for Wales.

When he stopped playing he pursued a business career first with Reed International then Smurfit. A natural sportsman, he easily took to golf and was captain of Denham in Buckinghamshire in the seventies. Malcolm was also a good cricketer and played cricket for Cornwall and Wales.