|Six Nations: Ireland v Wales|
|Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday, 8 February Kick-off: 14:15 GMT|
|Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Five, BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru plus the BBC Sport website & app|
Ross Moriarty had something of a surprise when Nick Tompkins turned up in the Wales Six Nations squad.
Before that, the 25-year-old Dragons back rower did not know his former England Under-20s team-mate was qualified to do so.
“I was very surprised when he was called to the squad because I didn’t know that he was Welsh. I don’t even think he’d been to Cardiff before,” joked Moriarty, who was raised in Swansea but represented England’s age-grade teams during his time with Gloucester’s youth set-up.
“But it’s nice to have him here, he’s a good boy and we have all welcomed him in.”
Moriarty and Tompkins were team-mates when England beat South Africa 21-20 to win the 2014 Junior World Championship, in a team led by Maro Itoje.
Fast forward six years and, after a stunning debut off the bench including a memorable try as Wales hammered Italy in their opener, Tompkins’ Welsh connections are now widely known.
As the 24-year-old Saracens centre celebrated Wales’ win, he paid an emotional tribute to Wrexham-born grandmother Enid.
Tompkins’ display earned him a starting spot as coach Wayne Pivac brought him into midfield to face Ireland in Dublin in the second round.
Of course, it could have all been so different for Tompkins had England taken more interest in his potential.
“There wasn’t any contact from Eddie,” said Tompkins.
“I just had contact with Wayne. He called me and I was more than happy to meet him and get the opportunity.
“I couldn’t have accepted it quick enough. It was one of those that I was so happy to have it. I wasn’t expecting to play for Wales at international level, but then I don’t know if I was expecting to play international rugby at all.
“But when it came along there was no chance of me saying no.”
Tompkins has also earned the nickname ‘Neil’, courtesy of a conversation Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones had with England counterpart Owen Farrell, a Saracens team-mate of Tompkins.
“Alun Wyn got it wrong at the captain’s launch when he spoke to Owen,” said Tompkins.
“He [Jones] said ‘Neil’s a good lad’. Owen got very confused and didn’t understand what he was talking about until it dawned on him that he got my name wrong. It’s sticking now unfortunately.”
As a former colleague who also played for England Under-18s alongside Tompkins, Moriarty understands why he may have been overlooked by the land of his birth.
“In England there is a lot more competition and depth. If you are not playing week in, week out then you might not get noticed,” said Moriarty, whose father Paul and uncle Richard both played for Wales.
“He is in a very strong Saracens team and players do get swapped in and out a lot, but he has taken a lot from being at that club.
“There are a massive amount of players that came through that England [U20] squad.
“In my first year there was a lot and the second year as well, people who have not just gone on to play for England, but to play for other countries.
“The amount of players that have gone on to play professional and internationally just goes to show that we had such a good coaching team and a good system in place.”
Moriarty and Tompkins’ connections continued against Italy, both coming off the bench, the latter initially to temporarily replace wing Johnny McNicholl, who returned after having a head knock checked out.
But in the 53rd minute, Hadleigh Parkes made way for Tompkins at centre while Moriarty took over from Taulupe Faletau in the back row.
Moriarty, meanwhile, is again on the bench, having also been used in such a way at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
“No player in my position would want to be sat on the bench and watching the game,” said Moriarty.
“My mindset is that I am here to start and that’s how I go into every camp. I don’t think that there would be much point in me being here if I wasn’t in that mind frame.
“Obviously it was disappointing to not get the start but, like I said in the World Cup, if that’s my role and I’ve got to be on the bench then I’ve got to take it on the chin, do my best to help the boys that are starting and then add the extra when I come on.”
Former rival and team-mate, ex-Wales captain Sam Warburton, is now someone Moriarty can turn to for guidance.
Warburton has gone from also being British and Irish Lions captain to working on Wales’ breakdown work under head coach Wayne Pivac
“I played a few seasons with Sam, I got on with him as a player and now I get on with him as a coach,” said Moriarty.
“It’s nice to see him coming on with the messages and giving you confidence. He has taken his role very well, he is around training all the time and has been great.
“He doesn’t speak to us any differently and I have sat down quite a few times with Sam.
“When you are players you don’t want to get in someone’s way of preparing, but now I know that I can use him.”
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Article courtesy of BBC Sport