FEATURE INTERVIEW: Nick Tompkins
There may not have been the same flamboyance as with his 100th game for the club, when he scored a hat-trick against Gloucester, but Nick Tompkins was just as pleased to have notched his latest landmark last month when he reached 150 games with a score in the bonus-point win at Harlequins.
From boy to man Tompkins has dedicated the last decade of his life to Saracens and barely gave the latest statement statistic in his burgeoning career a second thought – until his team mates started making a fuss of hm.
Having joined the Saracens Academy at 16, he made his first-team debut in the LV= Cup on 9 November, 2012, in a 38-21 win over Leicester Tigers at Goldington Road, Bedford. By 2015 he had helped Sarries win that title and has since gone on to claim Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup glory with the club, as well 23 Welsh caps.
“It is a bit difficult to think of 150 games as being out of the ordinary at a club like this when you are playing with players with between 200-300 appearances,” said the 27-year-old centre.
“But then you have to take into consideration it is 150 games a club of the stature of Saracens. I’ve had to fight throughout my career for a starting spot against the likes of Brad Barritt, Chirs Wyles, Marcello Bosch, Duncan Taylor, Alex Lozowski and Eliot Daly.
“For me, that puts a different perspective on the achievement. Now I just want to keep on going and see if I can get close to both Brad and Chris with more than 250 games.
“I got a message from both of them wishing me all the best against Harlequins and the players were great in mentioning my personal landmark in the team meetings in the build-up. That made it a very special occasion for me.
“My family were all there and it made me cast my mind back to when it all started. I’ve loved every moment of being part of the set-up at Saracens and I’m so proud to play for the club.”
His 150th appearance came in his first outing of the season and helped to get his side off to a winning start after they had sat out the first week of the campaign. He then went on to miss the heart-stopping home win over Gloucester because he was at his brother’s wedding. Tompkins now reckons what happened last term is now old news.
“It was a bit of a strange season last time out. We all came back together, and I guess we wanted to prove a point after being relegated in the way we were,” said Tompkins.
“The quest was redemption and revenge and we got some of that by reaching the final. All our focus was on winning the Premiership to prove a point and we got caught up a little bit in having tunnel vision.
“This season seems a little less tense and the focus is merely on the season long journey, rather than on one particular thing. We obviously still want to win back the Premiership title, but there is also the Heineken Champions Cup to consider once again.
“Things feel more normal this season, the motivation seems better. I guess you could say that a chapter has ended in the Saracens history and we are now moving on.”
Tompkins is now one of the senior figures in the back line, although he doesn’t see himself as an elderly statesman just yet.
“I still see myself as a kid in this team. There are so many outstanding generals in the ranks I just need to keep on concentrating on what I am doing, rather than sticking my oar in,” he added.
“I’ve always been a player who feels my actions speak louder than any words and I try to lead by example. My job is to ensure I play to my very best in order to stay in the team.
“I think I’m one appearance behind Maro Itoje, so I need to keep going to try to overtake him. He and I graduated through the academy together and it has been an incredible journey for both of us so far.”