Nick Tompkins exclusive interview: Owen Farrell’s stirring message helped Saracens bounce back
Owen Farrell sat the Saracens squad down and told the players they needed to change.
The Barnet club talisman set out a new vision to his team-mates, and within minutes the Men In Black were on board.
This was the first day of pre-season ahead of a campaign where Saracens have topped the Gallagher Premiership table with room to spare.
That meeting formed the considered, meticulous response to last term’s last-gasp 15-12 Premiership final defeat to Leicester Tigers.
On Saturday, Saracens will bring that change to bear by hosting Northampton Saints at StoneX Stadium in the north Londoners’ 13th Premiership semi-final.
An expanded attacking blueprint devised between coaches and senior pros has delivered devastating results and thrilling rugby, and Wales centre Nick Tompkins believes Saracens have not looked back since.
“When you win a final, what happens next takes care of itself,” Tompkins told Standard Sport.
“When you lose, you still enjoy a chance to unwind, but you can’t lie, it doesn’t feel as great, it’s a bit depressing.
“But as soon as we got in for our first meeting in pre-season, Owen sat us down and spoke to us about how we needed to have a different vision, that we needed to change.
“Then all the coaches got us together and played out this vision to us of how we were going to change who we are and the structure, and that we want to really start attacking teams.
“We basically said we never again want to feel how in that final. Mainly because we felt like we didn’t really throw a punch, that it kind of passed us by.
“And we’re okay with losing finals and going out there, but what we’re not okay with is not throwing punches and not showing who we are.
“As much as the fans want to see a good game, the boys want to enjoy the game and play running rugby as well.”
Saracens have run the entire campaign winning every home league match, dropping just one try bonus point in the process.
England and Saracens captain Farrell has been central to the revamp, leaving Tompkins insisting the 31-year-old already boasts all the credentials to thrive in the coaching arena.
“Owen was definitely the catalyst for all of that, speaking about how we were going to redefine the attack in our own way,” said Tompkins.
“He’s phenomenal, honestly he could stop now and be a coach, easily, and he’d be one of the best in the league.
“His rugby brain is ridiculous. It makes it intimidating just to be playing outside him.
“Because you’re probably wrong, if you try and say something about rugby. Because he’s probably correct and he knows a lot more than you!
“But he’s just one of the most impressive players I’ve ever worked with, his knowledge and his sheer motivation. His relentlessness, it’s just impressive.
“He can walk into a coaching gig whenever he wants to be honest.
“But it’s great to see him being nominated for the Premiership Player of the Season award; it just shows how good a player he is.
“I know he can be in and out of the England stuff at points, or at 12 or 10, but for me it’s pretty clear cut where he belongs – it’s in that 10 shirt starting.”
Tompkins has thrived alongside Farrell and Alex Lozowski in Saracens’ fluid inside-back cordon this term, while also building his influence in Warren Gatland’s Wales squad ahead of the autumn’s World Cup.
“I’ve loved it and the season’s flown by,” said the 28-year-old.
“It just feels so comfortable, you can really start to read body language for those in-the-moment elements.
“One of the boys gives a look or says one thing and you know exactly what’s going to happen.
“The stability, with Owen, Alex and Elliot Daly, it’s been class and I know it makes me a better player.”