British Bulldog could be NRL’s fastest forward
Canterbury have secured one of rugby league's best athletes in British Bulldog Luke Thompson, a much-hyped prop who has previously made his name as the fittest and fastest member of the England Test side.
Already touted as the game's No.1 prop, Thompson will have every chance to prove his NRL worth when he makes his debut as soon as round eight.
His likely opponents over that opening month are likely to include NSW Origin stars Payne Haas, Dave Klemmer, Cameron Murray and Paul Vaughan.
One player convinced Thompson will have immediate success is fellow Englishman and Canberra No.7 George Williams, who has been lining up against the St Helens import since age 12.
Williams told how, during one English Test camp together, the mobile bookend surprised everyone by winning not only the beep test - which measures a player's athletic endurance - but the sprints.
"Fantastic athlete," Williams said. "I'll never forget in our England camp where we did a beep test and Luke won that. Then we did some sprints, and he won that too.
"I was standing there thinking 'geez, and this bloke is our front-rower'.
"While he isn't that big, Luke is extremely quick and mobile for a prop.
"He's been fantastic for St Helens over the past couple of years, probably the competition's best player in the middle, and I can't wait to see how he goes in the NRL."
As for what Thompson was like at age 12?
"Imposing," Williams said. "Even though he isn't a massive forward - or not one of the bigger bodies - he really is athletic and doesn't take a backward step.
"Being the same age as me, we've been playing against each other for years. So I know what he's about and I know he will be determined to be a success."
Having arrived in Australia on Monday, Thompson will now spend 14 days isolating in a room at Melbourne's Crown hotel.
To help the Englishman prepare, the Bulldogs have installed a state-of-the-art gym in his room and will provide daily contact with coach Dean Pay's training sessions via a video link.
All meals will also be cooked and delivered by a nutritionist.
Already, there have been suggestions Thompson could make his debut for the Bulldogs in round eight, when the club is slated to play South Sydney at Bankwest Stadium at 6.30pm on a Sunday.
However, with the NRL wanting to open up to crowds by next month, there has been talk of potentially moving that game to ANZ Stadium for a 2pm start.
Should Thompson make his debut a week later, it will be against the Brisbane Broncos, and rising NSW Origin prop Payne Haas, at Suncorp Stadium on a Saturday afternoon.
In round 10, the Bulldogs play St George Illawarra, followed by the Newcastle Knights a week after that.
Originally published as British Bulldog could be NRL's fastest forward