|Venue: Stade de France, Paris Date: Saturday, 18 March Kick-off: 14:45 GMT|
|Coverage: Live on S4C, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, the BBC Sport website & app; live text commentary on BBC Sport website & app.|
Centre Nick Tompkins says it has been tough to watch from the sidelines after being given his first 2023 Six Nations start against France on Saturday.
Tompkins’ involvement in the tournament had been limited to a second-half replacement appearance against England.
He is recalled alongside George North for the 20-year-old pair of Joe Hawkins and Mason Grady.
“I can’t lie. It’s not been great. It’s been a tough camp to sit out and watch the boys play,” said Tompkins.
“The young lads have been stepping up. It’s been tough to watch. I’ve been trying to train hard and keep your spirits up to try and get this chance.
“We’ve been training well, the whole group and the bibs have really been pushing hard.”
The Saracens centre will rekindle his partnership with North after they played five games together in 2022.
“We know each other well now so it’s good,” added Tompkins.
“I know what he likes and prefers. It’s quite nice we can share the ball-carrying. Hopefully it’s going to be a good mix and I get on well with him which is a bonus. That kind of thing is helpful in a game like this.”
The Wales pair will face the in-form France duo of Jonathan Danty and Gael Fickou, who helped Les Bleus secure a record 53-10 defeat win over England at Twickenham last time out.
“Fickou is on fire, everything he does is pretty good,” added Tompkins.
“He can pick and go from a ruck and they still score. Danty is a big old lad.
“But that’s no different to any other game. I’ve always got big lads running at me.”
Dark days of strike threat
Tompkins has been part of a Wales squad who have struggled on the field, with three Six Nations defeats before last week’s victory over Italy.
The squad have also dealt with major issues off the pitch, with a dispute over player contracts threatening to result in the national squad not playing against England in the Six Nations.
That strike threat was averted three days before the game in Cardiff but Tompkins says the squad were affected.
“I’ve never had a week in my career like the week we had, the disruption of the training, how bad the boys felt, the mixed emotions,” said Tompkins.
“Contracts, careers and livelihoods were on the line – not just for the boys in the room, but everyone in the nation.
“That’s a serious thing and it’s a sobering thought. It’s a fine thread with rugby.
“You think you’re safe. I’ve had experiences of teams in my league drop out and you’re talking 70 boys out of contract and they can’t pay their mortgage.
“It’s life for us. That week brought it home. The meetings we were involved in carried a massive weight for what we thought was the nation in terms of the boys playing that weren’t in that group.
“We owed it to them to have a voice and stand strong. That game wasn’t going to go ahead until we sorted it.
“You think, that’s lot of money our of the regions and the nation that would end up affecting a lot of people’s careers and livelihoods.
“That was probably one of the darkest and intense weeks, just speaking from my point of view, and I’m a player who doesn’t even play at one of the regions.
“For the other guys, it must have been hard. I know Ken Owens went to absolute hell, sleepless nights kind of thing. It was tough.”
Tompkins feels the training camp in Nice ahead of the trip to Paris had eased tensions.
“Going there was such a weight lifted off us, we got away from the politics,” said Tompkins.
“We got away from everything. We were together, relaxing and working hard and that has helped no end.”
There has also been change off the field to deal with in this campaign, with a new head coach, Warren Gatland, and backroom staff.
Twelve defeats in 16 matches over the last year reflects Wales’ struggle ahead of the World Cup in France later this year.
“There’s been a lot of change and a lot of disruption, I think it’s settling down a bit now,” added Tompkins.
“I’ve said previously it’s about healing now and coming together.
“That’s the most important thing for this group – finding our identity and who we are, and having consistency and continuity in everything we do.
“We’re starting to see that gradually and getting the culture right.
“It’s early days at the moment but all with the goal of this game in mind and then the World Cup.”
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