Homer: “Having Delon back provides huge competition at full back”

The Premiership’s top points scorer following the opening six rounds, Tom Homer has been in top form for London Irish so far this season. Still only 21, Homer is now in his fourth season with the Exiles, and has settled into the full back position with Delon Armitage away at the Rugby World Cup with England.

Having collected 105 points so far, nearly 20 more than his closest competitor, with a 10/10 record against Newcastle in Round Four, Homer is on a roll. Not that the title of leading points scorer means much to him: “It’s just part of my job. As long as I’m getting as many over as possible than we have more chance of doing well, and that’s the way I think about it rather than personal accolades.” Getting to this stage of perfecting his technique has not been an immediate process for the young back, with Homer stressing that his success is purely down to hard work.

“I’ve had a routine over the last couple of years that I’ve just honed in. I’ve tried every style you could possibly imagine! But I found something that works, and now it all happens naturally.” When it came to trying to find this kicking groove, Homer took inspiration from top kickers including Jonny Wilkinson and Dan Carter, but at the same time stressed that he wanted to be unique in his own style rather than being a replica.

When it comes to practicing, backs coach Mike Catt is there, if Homer needs him: “With goal-kicking he generally leaves me be, but if I’m out there practicing and one goes wide, he’ll come over and tell me where he thinks it went wrong. What he is great at helping me with is my tactical kicking, which is something I want to get on par with my goal-kicking as I’m a back three player.” This emphasis on being an all-round excellent man at the back also brings focus onto his try-scoring ability, which with four tries in four seasons is an area where Homer is eager to improve.

He has already dotted down one blistering score against Worcester in Round Six (watch it at the bottom of the page), but Homer is hungry for more, stating that when it comes down to choosing between a great try or coming off the pitch with a perfect kicking record, the former would always win. “They don’t come around too often, so I’m trying to do my best to make sure I score more tries, especially ones like those against Worcester.”

The return of Delon Armitage from England duty provides Homer with “huge” competition for the 15 shirt. “He played well last weekend against Newcastle in the LV=Cup, and it makes you work harder. We’ve got so many good players in the back three (Sailosi Tagicakibau, Topsy Ojo, Adam Thompstone and youngster Marland Yarde are all on the books), so I just want to do my best to get into the XV.” Whilst originally joining Irish as an outside centre, Homer would happily slot in there if necessary, though for the moment Jonathan Joseph is winning plenty of praise from pundits up and down the country in the 13 shirt.

After missing a lot of the last campaign with an impressive collection of injuries; torn hamstring, ankle ligaments, popped collarbone to name three of the them, Homer is eager to put all of the bad luck from last season behind him. “Having a proper pre-season has been great, which I haven’t really had before, and now I’m doing whatever I can in training and in the gym to take care of my body more and make myself available for each weekend.”

Bath are this weekend’s opponents for the Exiles, who are unbeaten at home so far this season, and Homer is certainly looking forward to it. “They like to throw the ball about a bit which is great, and they’re always a tough side to face. We’re in good shape though following the LV=Cup and playing at home will give us a huge advantage once more.” If Homer’s boot keeps knocking the ball through the posts as he has done thus far, then Irish will have a good chance on Saturday.

by Ben Coles

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

3 thoughts on “Homer: “Having Delon back provides huge competition at full back”

  1. This is at least one benefit of playing international competitions during the premiership season. Younger players get a chance to play, earn some experience and stake a claim for a playing spot when the big names are away.

    Obviously having players away on international duty is harder on some teams than others (normally those with the biggest bank roll!) but it does prove the worth of academies when the younger players can step into the team and do a good job. With the number of young players coming through, this is at least one area of the top flight that seems to be working.

    Although on the other hand having players who only know rugby, and haven’t had a life outside of the game does limit their perspective and ultimately rugby intelligence. Debate!

  2. Interesting point Staggy. I can’t think of endless examples of other players – but then I haven’t watched any Premiership rugby yet this season.

    I think the dual registration system is the important aspect to professional player development – giving them regular rugby at least.

    You do wonder though whether some of them would benefit from getting a ‘real’ job and gaining a little perspective – put them on a month’s work experience!

    1. I’m not going to be able to list 30 players who have benefited either but I bet if you looked back over each years six nations and this years world cup you’d probably find 5 – 10 players who got their chance to play some regular rugby and grabbed the chance with both hands.

      If you look at Gloucester and all of the young players they have, some of these have had a good chance when internationals have been away (admitedly these internationals have traditionally been Scottish, Italian and Argentinian!). Be interested to see when Sharples had his chance – can’t remember now – some dedicated shedhead will be able to tell me. To be fair there is also a fair old rotation and squad policy that goes on in clubs as well – to keep players fresh and this helps development.

      I do genuinely think that players who are closeted in the professional rugby world from a young age do lose a sense of what it means to be in their position, and maybe don’t take the chances that are presented to them as a result.

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