NICK Tompkins admits he went “stale” at the Dragons but the Wales centre believes he is getting back to his best thanks to being pushed by Saracens’ Lions.

The 26-year-old headed to Rodney Parade on loan last summer after Sarries were relegated from the English Premiership for salary cap breaches.

He had a solid if unspectacular spell in Wales before being recalled to London in April to help his parent club earn promotion back to the top flight.

Tompkins made 14 appearances for the Dragons, nine of them starts, and won six more caps but ended the Six Nations behind Jonathan Davies, George North and Willis Halaholo in the pecking order.

After swapping pushing for titles at Saracens with the likes of Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Jamie George and Elliot Daly for helping the Rodney Parade region try to improve from being PRO14 strugglers, the centre admits he didn’t maintain his high standards.

South Wales Argus:

“You’re always going to have challenges and competition and you need it really because otherwise you go stale,” he said.

“I found that out at times at the Dragons and there were times when I could have pushed myself harder in training and I didn’t.

“I went back to Saracens and there are Lions all around you pushing you and you see the difference. The difference between my performances is night and day. You need that push and competition and I love it.”

Tompkins was still a solid performer at the Dragons and played his part in the development of Aneurin Owen.

He was also hit by having to move to a new club in the middle of lockdown and then the illness of his grandfather, who died approaching the festive period.

“It was tough. In the autumn I had some family troubles and then in the Six Nations I had some family issues again with other stuff,” said Tompkins, who was given compassionate leave to miss the Boxing Day derby against Cardiff.

“With being away at the Dragons and having to be in a bubble, I found it really tough personally. I didn’t cope with it very well and I needed a bit of an adjustment period.

“I wish I’d played better for Dragons and definitely coming back for Wales after Covid it was a bit of a stumbling block.

“After the Six Nations I was really, really happy with my fitness and how I felt. I obviously had an injury to my shoulder which was another setback, but after coming back from the Dragons to Sarries maybe it was a case of feeling more at home and seeing some familiar faces because I’ve been there for 10 years.”

South Wales Argus:

Tompkins came off the bench early in Wales’ Test against Canada because of Leigh Halfpenny’s injury, slotting in on the wing, and then made another appearance as a replacement last weekend in the 20-20 draw with Argentina when Halaholo was forced off.

“It makes a difference and playing for Sarries in the Championship with the Lions boys, I think I’ve got back to my level and playing my best rugby,” he said.

“I’ve really enjoyed the last two Welsh games when I’ve got on and the camp has been going well. It’s been tough, really rough, and there have been moments when you question your ability and things. It’s been a good learning. “It’s one of those things that happens in life and it’s peaks and troughs. You have to manage it and I’m giving my all in training to be the best I can be.”