Located within a conspicuously spacious lounge room at Kingsholm stadium, two things quickly striked me about the Gloucester wing wizard. First was how articulate he was, unsurprising given Thorley was a straight-A student at Cheltenham College — one of the country’s leading private schools.
Second is his extremely humble and kind nature, endearingly asking how I was finding my studies at University “How are you finding your studies at Gloucestershire” he asks before enquiring what study Sports Journalism entails.
Becoming the youngest ever to play for Gloucester at just 17, Thorley has been in excellent form for his side this season. Scoring five tries in eight appearances, he considers self-belief as a key factor behind his impressive performances “I would say confidence has definitely been a big thing and I mean that in terms of confidence in myself and in my body” with his fine form earning him the Premiership Player of the Month award in November.
He additionally credits seeking professional help to improve his performance levels “I’ve been working with Dan Tobin (head of performance at Gloucester) and I’ve also seen people externally, working with Margot Wells (former sprinter and renowned elite sprint and fitness coach) who has helped me hugely, that has certainly been a factor”
As the race to secure an elusive top four place in the Premiership reaches the final stage of the season, he acknowledges his side are well positioned to achieve a top four place, with Gloucester currently in fourth position.
However he insists they are not concerned with the league standings, instead solely concentrating on their own performances and continuing to play the expansive brand of rugby which has been so compelling for fans this season.
“That was certainly an ambition of ours and we’ve put ourselves in a position to do that so that’s where we want to be but I think the thing we’ve got to remember is we just got to keep playing how we like to play”
“We’re not transfixed on finishing in the top four, we’re not constantly looking at the league table it’s more about controlling what we can control in a rugby sense and if we do that proficiently we will get there”
Gloucester’s aspirations of achieving a top four finish have been orchestrated by Johan Ackermann, now in his second full season with Cherry and Whites. Thorley has hailed the South African’s impact since his arrival, citing the confidence he has installed within his players and his personality.
“It’s been huge, prior to Johan arriving I had sort of dipped my toes in with the Premiership team and played some European games but since Johan has come in he has installed a lot of belief within the team and I have very much felt an attachment to what he is saying, it resonates with me an awful lot”
“He’s a great person aswell and for that reason I found it easier because I wanted to go out there and play not just for myself and for Gloucester fans but for the coaches too”
Following a string of superb performances for his side this campaign, was called up to Eddie Jones’ England squad ahead of the 2019 Six Nations in January
Recounting his experience of being involved the national squad, he humorously alludes to the perks included “It was pretty cool, obviously you get all the stash which is awesome” he says with a beaming expression adding “you get fed really well and you get to stay in a five star hotel so it’s not too bad”
Besides luxuries, he observes the intensity and high demands set by Eddie Jones’s in training, but embraces the expectations upon him. “It is intense, there’s expectation on you all the time, and I think the expectation does inevitably put pressure on you but it is good pressure as it demands the best of you and it is a really cool place to be”
His strong form for his side this season could prove timely with a World Cup on the horizon in September in Japan. In the wing position, Jones has an array of excellent players to choose from with Thorley competing with the likes of Anthony Watson, Jack Nowell, Joe Cokanaisga, Jonny May and Elliot Daly.
Although he admits he’s aiming to be selected within the squad, he remains firmly focused on continuing to develop his own ability.
“Obviously I want to push for those places, I’d be mad if I said I didn’t so it is something that is in the back of my mind but I’m predominantly thinking about the process of improving myself as a player”
“I’m not solely thinking about the World Cup, I’m thinking this is where I am as a rugby player now and this is where I want to be, then thinking about how I get there, so Indirectly it is on my mind but not specifically”