Wales star rips up English Premiership opener on stunning return to steal march on rivals

The centre is going to be a hugely competitive area for Wales this season, with the likes of Jonathan Davies, George North, Johnny Williams, Willis Halaholo, Owen Watkin and Ben Thomas all vying for selection.

But with the Gallagher Premiership having kicked off a week before the United Rugby Championship, Nick Tompkins has had a head start on his home-based rivals.

He certainly made the most of the opportunity to steal a march, producing a highly impressive display as Saracens marked their return to the top-flight with a 26-9 victory over Bristol at Ashton Gate.

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Fly-half Alex Lozowski was named Man of the Match, kicking 21 points, but Tompkins can’t have been too far behind.

He was excellent with ball-in-hand and on the carry, beating seven defenders in the first-half alone, while he put in a big shift in defence and never stopped working.

What you got from him were the basics done well. He ran straight and hard and he made his tackles. It wasn’t particularly complicated, but it was mightily effective.

The 26-year-old certainly looks at home back at Sarries, having rejoined them following his eight-month loan-spell with the Dragons.

He helped them gain promotion back to the Premiership in June, starring during the run-in and claiming a brace of tries in the two-leg demolition of Ealing Trailfinders in the Championship play-off final.

That fine form saw him included in Wales’ summer squad and he featured in all three Tests against Canada and Argentina, taking his tally of caps to 13.

Now he has hit the ground running as the new season gets underway, helping Sarries announce their Premiership return in style.

While he didn’t perhaps hit the heights during his 14-game spell with the Dragons, Tompkins feels it definitely helped in his development.

“I think going away was a really good opportunity to go into a new group and have a bit more responsibility,” he told Talking Rugby Union

“It was unbelievably good for personal growth to have that experience and learn more about myself.

“I have been at Saracens my whole career, so to be out and to see a different culture was brilliant. Dragons were brilliant as well. I had a great time and Dean Ryan is doing good things and I believe that they are going to do well.”

The Sidcup-born Tompkins, who qualifies for Wales through his Wrexham-born grandmother, continued: “I had spent the majority of my time (up to that point) in north Wales because that is where my Gran is from.

“I know north Wales really well and I didn’t know south Wales well at all, other than playing games there.

“So for me to get to know the place and get a real feel of it, whenever I go back it feels like a second home.

“I am forever grateful for that because I feel completely at home going back.”

He says his one disappointment was not getting to experience the Dragons fans first hand because of the Covid restrictions.

“I never got to play at Rodney Parade in front of a crowd and I think that would have been awesome,” he said,

“There is a real sadness there because that would have really been the whole culture of it and I would really have been able to get immersed in it.

“I suppose, coming away from it, that is my biggest sadness about the Dragons that I was never able to fully immerse myself in the culture because I didn’t get to see the fans or do as much stuff as we could have done, like going out with the boys and stuff like that.

“So, it is tough in that sense and that is a real sadness for me because I think it would have been a really interesting and fun period of time.

“It was just a shame because of Covid, but it was still good.”

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