Wednesday, March 3

Jamie George and Owen Farrell reveal surprise at Nick Tompkins’ Wales switch as they welcome friendly rivalry

Jamie George did not expect to be going up against long-time friend and teammate Nick Tompkins this weekend, but the England hooker admits his Saracens colleague will make Wales more dangerous when they meet at Twickenham on Saturday.

Tompkins shocked a number of his Saracens teammates when he announced a switch of allegiance to Wales, having played for England under-20s four years ago only to commit to Wales thanks to his Welsh grandmother.

The 25-year-old has gone about establishing himself with the Premiership side over the last two seasons that put him on the radar of Wales boss Wayne Pivac, and the absence of Jonathan Davies has opened up a berth for him in the centre during this year’s Six Nations after back-to-back starts against Ireland and France.

Tompkins will make his Twickenham international debut this Saturday, albeit in the unexpected environment of the away dressing room, and George admits that the sudden move was a surprise when he found out.

“I didn’t think I’d be playing against him! I wasn’t aware of his Welsh heritage,” George said. “It’s always a funny one and playing against people you know is something you get used to.

“He has been in contact this week saying he’s going to annoy me a little bit! I’ll annoy him back – it will be a game within a game.”

George’s comments were echoed by fellow Saracen Owen Farrell, with the England captain revealing that he only found out about Tompkins’ decision minutes before he was named in Pivac’s Six Nations squad. That said, it is clear that both are pleased for their club teammate to finally be finding his feet on the biggest stage after earning rave reviews at Allianz Park.

“He is a fantastic player,” said Farrell. “He is someone who has been able to unlock a game for a while. He has got brilliant feet and is deceptively strong for the size of him.

“He has made a big step up this year in terms of doing it week in week out for the club, being a big part of what we are doing. That is why he has got the recognition he has.”

George believes that the threat of Tompkins in the middle of the park gives England something extra to think about this weekend, with his attacking style proving more prominent so far this tournament than the defensively-resolute Davies. Tompkins stood out in the narrow 27-23 defeat against France two weeks ago, though he was guilty of throwing the intercepted pass that allowed fly-half Romain Ntamack to score the match-winning try, and the England forward believes a wounded Welsh side will play much better than their current record of results suggests.

“It’s difficult because everyone just looks at the end result but actually some of the stuff they’ve played has been pretty impressive,” George said.

“I thought they were unlucky against France. Some of the new guys who have come in have added a lot. Nick Tompkins has done a good job and has added a lot to the Wales team.

“Their front row and back row in particular add so much to that team. They’re a good place regardless of the results they’ve added.”