Feb 09, 2017
A Man in Form: A closer look at Nick Tompkins
We take a closer look at in-form centre Nick Tompkins. We ask academy graduate about his time at the club, how he’s enjoyed his red-hot start to 2017 and why he believes Saracens is the perfect place for a young player.
“Being at this club has been invaluable for me. It teaches you all about a positive culture, how to treat people and how a winning environment goes about its day-to-day business.” – Nick Tompkins
Nick Tompkins is a man in form. Two back-to-back Man of the Match awards, a pair of assured and impressive performances against some of the best centres in European rugby, the Saracens academy graduate is
The summer of 2016 saw Nick Tompkins excel for the England Saxons during their tour of South Africa. Tompkins has been no stranger to representing his country at age-group level as he was a key member of England’s U20 Junior World Championship success in 2014 and helped the U20s to the final in 2015.
The personal milestones have continued as Nick made his 50th appearance for the club in Saracens’ 22-22 draw away to the Scarlets in January. Up against Wales internationals Scott Williams and Jonathan Davies, Tompkins was pitting his wits against two of Europe’s finest centres and performed admirably. A week later Tompkins produced a superb display against the behemoth sized Toulon centres, Ma’a Nonu and Mathieu Bastareaud in a performance his delighted director of rugby Mark McCall described as Tompkins’ ‘coming of age” moment.
Since the glitz and glamour of two high-profile European Cup ties, Nick has continued to impress in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, picking up two Man of the Match awards in as many weeks against Scarlets and last weekend against Leicester Tigers. His form has not been lost on McCall.
“He’s an incredibly well-rounded and hard-working player and we hope he continues to improve,” said the Sarries director of rugby.
“Nick has been great for us, and he’s backed up two superb performances in the Champions Cup against Scarlets and Toulon with two Man of the match performances in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.”
Tompkins remains humble despite the effusive praise from McCall, pointing out that he still has huge scope to improve despite what many see as his breakthrough month at the Club.
“I didn't foresee playing so many games at this stage but I’m definitely happy with the way things have been going,” said Tompkins. “I know there’s a lot more to come and there’s more I need to do to improve. It’s good for my confidence and I’m really enjoying playing, that’s the most important thing.
“For me, it’s now about learning the fine arts that maybe aren’t so obvious. I’m trying to learn from the people around me and learn the Saracens way. I’ve realised I can play at this level and do well, I just want to keep improving my defence and attack. I’m in a much better place now than I was a year ago, if you stop improving you get left behind.”
Nick’s grounded attitude is similar to his former England U20s sparring partner, Maro Itoje. As Maro’s stock continues to race to the summit of the game at a scorching pace Tompkins has continued to use his time at Saracens and most the Saxons to fine-tune his game. Has he suffered from impatience? Has he looked enviously at the likes of Itoje? No. As an introspective young man, he reveals how his path to the senior set-up at Saracens has had its fair share of ‘set-backs’ and harsh lessons, but he reveals he couldn’t be happier with where he is currently honing his game.
“It’s been tough,” said Tompkins, “there’s been times where I’ve had to look at myself and ask, ‘am I doing the right things? Am I working hard enough? What things can improve on?’, but I’ve quickly realised that we (players) all have a little bit of that in us.
“When you’re in what we call ‘the bubble’ sometimes it can be a bit hard to take a step back and look further than the week-to-week, but it’s something I’ve learned over time to do.”
Tompkins needn’t look any further at some of his contemporaries who have blazed a trail from academy youngster to senior pro for inspiration. With Alex Goode, Will Fraser, George Kruis, Jamie George, Owen Farrell, Ben Spencer, Jackson Wray and most recently Maro Itoje showing the way, Tompkins is content with his current situation.
“It’s fascinating for me, coming from the academy, looking up to these guys from the beginning of the evolution we’ve been through as team. It’s just shows the hunger the whole squad has, that we demand better from each other and we know that we have to put the work in. The expectation (of what it means to be a Saracens player) is there but we don’t hold ourselves on the outcomes, we hold ourselves up to our performances.
“I think it has been invaluable for guys like Maro (Itoje) and Faz (Owen Farrell) for instance, as it instils a work-rate in you that you need in the modern era. Maro is pretty close to becoming the complete package as a player, but he’s had to work incredibly hard for that, same as Owen Farrell, an incredible amount of work behind the scenes goes on to get him to where he is which is one of the best players in the world. It rubs off on you, and inspires you to work as hard, to work on the little things to get you where you want to be.”