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Nick Tompkins talks up massive midfield battle against Damian de Allende and Lukanyo Am

Published Jul 1, 2022

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Johannesburg — There are a number of tasty battles brewing, bubbling, quietly fermenting ahead of the first Test between the Springboks and Wales that will be a treat to watch if they come to fruition.

At the back, Damian Willemse and Liam Williams will be on guard; or how about the skirmish of the No 10s Elton Jantjies v Dan Biggar. Amongst the forwards, Jasper Wiese and Taulupe Faletau will wage a war from the rear, while the lock enforcers Eben Etzebeth and Adam Beard will tussle for supremacy.

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Arguably, one of the key battles on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld (kick-off 5pm) will be the clash in the midfield when Bok centers Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am measure themselves against counterparts Nick Tompkins and George North.

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The big and powerful North will make his return to international rugby after months on the sidelines due to a serious knee injury, slotting outside of 27-year-old Tompkins — now a veteran of 18 Tests. The return of North, in particular, will be a boon for a Wales side that is under pressure to put in a noteworthy performance this weekend.

And his mid-field partner revealed that the 30-year-old is champing at the bit and raring to go.

Said Tompkins: “He (North) has been brilliant, especially in training.

“He looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. I am massively excited to play alongside him. We’ve got Owen (Watkin) on the bench as well and when he comes on, what he has done in the Six Nations as well (will bode well).

"It's a testament to (North) as a bloke,” Tompkins continued, “the injury he had and then to come into training and look as sharp as he does, it is really impressive to be fair. He is straight into the team because of it.

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“I am sure he will have some nerves but those will go away and you will see what he can bring ...”

Tompkins and North will line-up against the equally powerful De Allende and arguably one of the best players in world rugby at the moment in Am, and the Welsh centre did not mince his words regarding the undertaking that lay before them.

“The consistency shows how good they are as a pair and how much they have done together,” Tompkins said. “They are brilliant.

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“It is going to be a massive test for us to try and contain them both on attack. Also, in their defence, they are pretty sharp and they are pretty aggressive as well. It is going to be a real Test match in that sense, trying to unlock what we can; and trying to contain and be aggressive back to them.”

Tomkins further elaborated as to what will be required to close down the Boks centres, noting that Am has a bit of that X-factor that must be accounted for.

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“The first thing I suppose you have got to do,” he said, “is look at body language and see what they are doing.

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“Especially with Am, you know he is going to come aggressively but he tries games a little bit. You have to look at that body language.

“In the moment that it happens, whatever it is, you have to be decisive. As soon as you start to think, those seconds go really quick, and then whatever you do is going to be weak or passive...

"It’s nice that I have George — a fairly big lad — outside me that I can tip to him if it does happen,” he concluded.

@FreemanZAR

IOL Sport

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