Nick Tompkins: Wales centre joins 'exciting' Dragons after talks with all regions

By Dafydd PritchardBBC Sport Wales
Nick Tompkins on his excitement about joining the Dragons and hooking up with Wales

Wales centre Nick Tompkins has revealed he held talks with all four Welsh regions but chose to join Dragons as they were the most "exciting" option.

The 25-year-old signed on a season-long loan from European champions Saracens, who have been relegated from the Premiership for salary cap breaches.

Tompkins was in demand after a flying start to his international career.

"I liked all regions but Dragons to me seemed the up and coming, exciting team," he said.

"I spoke to the other regions, I spoke to all of them. They all spoke really well about their environment.

"From the Dragons point of view, it was refreshing when I spoke to Dean [Ryan, director of rugby], the way we talked was honest, open and refreshing.

"They just spoke differently and it sounded more like what I've been used to than other clubs. That's really because of Dean and, moving forward, what he's doing with the team.

"There were three year-long loan deals and it came down to security, what the prospects were and how exciting things could be.

"I came to the decision of the Dragons because of where we can take this group and how they are being coached and led. I'm definitely positive I've made a really good choice."

Tompkins has enjoyed a whirlwind 2020 so far, earning a first Wales call-up and marking his debut with a try in the opening Six Nations win over Italy.

The Sidcup-born player, who qualifies for Wales because of his Welsh grandmother, is now preparing to play his domestic rugby away from Saracens for the first time in his career.

Dragons have traditionally been the weakest of the four Welsh professional sides since the advent of regional rugby in 2003.

But they have improved under Ryan this season, reaching the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals and matching the number of wins they managed in the 2018-19 Pro14 season in eight games fewer.

And if next season's European Champions Cup is expanded to include 24 teams as expected, Dragons will qualify for Europe's top-tier competition.

Long-term future with Wales and Saracens

Wales' Nick Tompkins (right) takes on England captain Owen Farrell
Nick Tompkins played in all four of Wales' 2020 Six Nations games, including March's loss in England, when he came up against Saracens team-mate Owen Farrell

Tompkins will be with the Gwent region for the duration of next season and he will also be available when the current campaign resumes after its current coronavirus-imposed hiatus.

The Pro14 is due to return in August with two derbies each for the Welsh regions, and Tompkins hopes playing in such fixtures will enhance his opportunities to impress Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.

"The news about Saracens dropped and I knew I wanted to play for Wales and further it [my international career]," said Tompkins.

"We came to the decision that playing in the Championship was not an option. I had to keep pushing the best talent being in Wales.

"We talked about that very early on about my international career and I wanted to make that decision."

Even when Tompkins returns to Saracens after his Dragons loan ends next year, he will still be eligible to play for Wales.

The former England Under-20s player signed a long-term contract with Saracens in December. That predated his first Wales call-up, meaning he is not captured by the Welsh Rugby Union's 60 cap eligibility rule.

Tompkins is relieved to have secured his future, particularly as the coronavirus pandemic has forced Wales' leading players to take pay cuts and left others worrying about their job security.

"I was worried because you worry about what could happen, but thankfully Dragons put their trust in me and backed me, and I'm going to try and repay it as much as I can," Tompkins said.

"That's all I can do. So I've got that long-term deal with Saracens but it really is all about these 12 months and what I can do, how I can try and help."

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