EX-WALES ACE JAMES IS BACK - AND READY TO REPAY HIS NEW EMPLOYERS
TOM James says “the old TJ is back” and he is ready to prove people wrong after signing a two-year deal with the Scarlets.
The Wales international winger took an extended break from the game in 2018 while he was undergoing treatment for depression.
He then parted company with Cardiff Blues at the end of last season, leaving him looking for a new club.
Now, having impressed the Scarlets with his fitness testing, he is ready to start a fresh chapter in his career.
James opened up about his 10-year battle with crippling depression in May, an interview that provoked a huge response.
“I had an unbelievable reaction, probably the best I have had in rugby,” said the 32-year-old.
“People were writing to me saying they were hoping I wasn’t going to finish. That was a good plus.”
James returned to action last season, uniquely playing for Merthyr, Pontypridd and Cardiff in the Welsh Premiership.
“At the end of the season, I was champing at the bit for the opportunity with the Blues,” he said. “I felt I still had plenty to offer professional rugby.
“Their wingers were doing well and they kept the same squad, so the opportunity didn’t come.
“But when I was playing in the Premiership I just felt I was back to my best.
“I have been training non-stop since I left the Blues in May and waiting for opportunities to come.
“I’ve been down the sand dunes at Merthyr Mawr on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
“The reason I kept on training was because I knew, if the opportunity came, I would be flying straightaway.
“I have worked hard, I feel in good shape and the hunger is there again after a tough couple of years.
“Since May I’ve been determined to get a professional contract.
“Fair dos to my agent, Rob Appleyard, he’s done a cracking job and obviously got me a deal with the Scarlets.
“I am absolutely delighted to have secured this move.”
James, who won 12 caps between 2007 and 2016, starts with the West Wales region next Monday and is straining at the leash.
“I can’t wait to get started,” he said. “I’ve got loads to offer. “Some people might think my best days are behind me, but obviously the Scarlets don’t think so.
“They saw my games at the end of the season and thought I was getting back to my best.
“They wouldn’t have given me two years if they didn’t think I was up to the job.
“I am a strong-minded person and come the start of the season I will prove a few people wrong.
“I am grateful for the opportunity. “The way I am in myself, I just feel like I am a different person again.
“I just can’t wait to go down there and show them the old TJ is back.
“Hopefully I can prove a few doubters wrong.
“You are going to have some fans out there thinking ‘Why have we signed him?’.
“But I know for a fact, when I look in the mirror, I will prove a few people wrong.”
Looking ahead to his new start, he said: “This is an exciting move for me, especially with the way the Scarlets play the game.
“They have got a cracking squad on paper and they’ve been doing really well over the last few years.
“They have got really good youngsters coming through. Hopefully I can help them become better players as well.”
James played 163 games for the Blues in two spells that spanned 11 seasons, scoring a record 60 tries, either side of spending two years with Exeter.
At the Scarlets, he will offer considerable experience as well as a proven predatory threat.
With Leigh Halfpenny set to be away at the World Cup in Japan, Steff Evans also in the training squad and Johnny McNicholl eligible for Wales on residency grounds for the Six Nations, James will provide invaluable cover within the back three.
And listening to him talk, he will clearly be out to stake a real claim for a starting spot in the first-choice side.
As he says, TJ is back.
Tom James in action for Wales against the Chiefs in 2016.