His try-scoring exploits with Exeter Chiefs have not gone unnoticed this season but No.8 Thomas Waldrom admits personal gongs will count for nothing this season as the Chiefs chase a home semi-final spot in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
‘The Tank’ tops the try-scoring charts in Europe and in Aviva Premiership Rugby, as well as being nominated for European player of the Year and at 33, is reaching new heights as part of an Exeter Chiefs side chasing silverware.
Since leaving Leicester Tigers in 2014, he has gone on to score 29 tries in 41 games for Exeter and, although overlooked for the RBS 6 Nations earlier this year, he has caught the eye of England’s new boss Eddie Jones.
As a boy growing up in New Zealand, it was simply the fun of playing that drew him into the game, and once again it is enjoyment that has sent his career into the stratosphere.
And with a second clash in three weeks against Wasps this weekend – second plays third in the table, Exeter’s Kiwi-born England international insists he knew straight away that Sandy Park was the place for him.
"Rob Baxter and Rob Hunter have got a game plan that suits us down to the ground, people coming in and buying into what we’re trying to achieve and those young guys in their first season now know what it is like to play Premiership rugby week in week out," said Waldrom, who was speaking at an Aviva Tackling Numbers event in Exeter.
"We play a style that is a bit more like Super Rugby and that suits me perfectly.
"It is a great group of guys, great characters on and off the field, we just enjoy our rugby and a lot of things can happen from that.
"Meeting Rob and talking to him, I knew within a couple of weeks that it was where I wanted to be, just looking at the skills on show – I knew."
Aviva Tackling Numbers is an innovative programme – run in partnership with Premiership Rugby – for 7-9 year olds which makes learning about numbers and financial education fun and engaging.
The programme is delivered by Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs and Waldrom joined Exeter teammate Tom Johnson to take part in a session with the kids.
"We took the kids for tag rugby, throwing a rugby ball around and then off into the classroom to do some maths," said Waldrom. "Aviva Tackling Numbers is a great project and I can see the benefits.
"It was nice seeing a mixture of boys and girls getting out there and enjoying it, you could see the smiles on their faces.
"There’s always potential, there were some great tags and some great sportsmanship, other kids helping each other out – which is nice to see."
Waldrom’s double could not prevent the heartbreak of Exeter’s European loss to Wasps, Charles Piutau’s score and Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion condemning them to defeat in their first-ever knockout game in European Rugby’s top-flight.
But having put 41 points past Wasps in a bonus point win earlier in the season – with Waldrom contributing three – ‘The Tank’ knows Exeter have more than enough in reserve to defeat a side who have 11 wins in their last 12 and in doing so take a huge step towards a home semi-final.
He said: "It is going to be a really important game, but the season is in our hands and it is up to us now to take that opportunity, try get the home advantage if we go out and play well.
"We enjoy playing Wasps because they play a great brand of rugby, almost Super Rugby style – and so do we. It is always a game you look forward to because there’s going to be some good running rugby.
"For us, there’s competition in all positions, we need to perform to keep that spot and keep pushing forward.
"We have had a few injuries, a couple of boys missing – (Henry) Slade, Dave Ewers – and that meant people had to show leadership, to step up and that has ultimately helped us as the season has gone on.
"We have control over our own destiny and that is massive for us; we want that home semi-final."
For Exeter Chiefs' team news for the Wasps clash click here
Thomas Waldrom was speaking at an Aviva Tackling Numbers session. In partnership with Premiership Rugby, #AvivaTacklingNumbers helps 7-9 year olds put foundations in place for better financial skills later in life through the power of rugby. Take a maths test at aviva.co.uk/tacklingnumbers for the chance to win Aviva Premiership Rugby Final tickets.