New Rotherham Titans forward Tom Hicks admits he has been a little starstruck as he has rubbed shoulders with some sporting greats during pre-season training.
Much of the Titans’ preparations for the new season have taken place at Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport and giant Hicks – the Titans’ tallest player at 6ft8 – has enjoyed spotting famous faces also using the facility.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve been very impressed with the professional set-up,” the 24-year-old said. “I’ve been with two Premiership clubs, and I can say that everything at the Titans is what you expect from a professional outfit.
“It’s been great to train at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield. I’ve seen Jessica Ennis-Hill and the boxer Anthony Joshua. I was tempted to speak to Jessica, but I didn’t want to interrupt her.”
Hicks is set to return to former club Northampton Saints on Saturday as the Titans get set for their second pre-season friendly.
Second row giant Hicks began his professional career straight from school at Northampton and then spent another three seasons at Gloucester before joining Rotherham in May.
He insists he has no expectations of starting games for the Titans and is up for the challenge of earning a place in the forwards ranks, starting by impressing in pre-season.
“Justin has brought in some excellent forwards, so the competition for places is tough and I certainly won’t walk into the team,” Hicks said. “The Northampton match will be hard and will show how far we’ve developed.”
The Clifton Lane giant played 14 games for Gloucester, including a memorable appearance against Munster in the Heineken Cup.
He said: “I was up against my childhood idol Paul O’Connell, the great Irish and British Lions second row. I actually stole a line out ball from him-that’s my claim to fame.
“Now my ambition is to play rugby regularly which wasn’t possible at Northampton and Gloucester, so when the opportunity came to join Rotherham I was happy to take it.
“In six years of professional rugby, I’ve not had a season where I could express what I could do. I want, therefore, to get into the team and perform solidly.
“The Titans squad is very ambitious and determined to do a lot better than last year. We want to get Rotherham back to where they should be in a very challenging league.”
When it comes to selection for the first Championship game against London Welsh in a fortnight, Hicks will be competing for a place against Miles Martindale (Cardiff Blues), Ollie Curry (London Irish), Darren Oliver (RAF and Combined Services) and Toby Salmon, now in his second season at the Titans.