Trust Cardiff Blues to be at the centre of some sort of signing saga, even when rugby union has effectively ground to a halt due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Two years ago it was the hunt for a new head coach as John Mulvihill finally replaced Danny Wilson, then last season it was the ‘will he? won’t he?’ over Gareth Anscombe and his move to the Ospreys, and now it seems Nick Tompkins will be at the heart of this year’s saga.
It was revealed by Neil Fissler in The Rugby Paper this weekend that the centre’s switch from Saracens to Cardiff Blues was close to collapse, after he had chosen the Arms Park as his preferred destination over other Welsh regions last month.
In a further explanation of the circumstances, Simon Thomas has underlined that the nature of the move is what is being debated, with the involved parties struggling to reach an agreement over exactly how Tompkins will become a Cardiff Blues player.
Initially it seemed like while we would have preferred to sign the centre permanently from the get-go, a one-year loan would be acceptable on the basis that he would then return to Saracens for a season to complete his contract there before hopefully returning permanently in the summer of 2022.
However, Simon raises the possibility that Tompkins is in fact contracted to Saracens beyond 2022, having signed an extension shortly before making his Wales debut, which would likely keep him tied to North London until at least 2024 as well as being eligible for Wayne Pivac’s side having signed the new deal prior to being capped.
It is that piece of news which is potentially set to derail the move for two reasons.
Firstly, it seems that Cardiff Blues are very unimpressed, to say the least, about the behaviour of Saracens and particularly the behaviour of Nick Tompkins’ representatives when it has come to being open and honest about exactly how long the player is contracted to his current club for.
And secondly, with it now being known that Tompkins is contracted to Saracens until at least 2024, a one-year loan deal becomes considerably less attractive to Cardiff Blues to the point where I would describe it as a dreadful piece of business should we go for it.
There’s a question over how much we would actually see the player, with Simon suggesting that the 12 months after the current Coronavirus outbreak is set to be dominated by international rugby in order to recover lost revenues.
That leads to the fact that a loan move would see Cardiff Blues having to pay 100% of his wages but get very little value for money, and with the virus putting a big dent in our revenue, money will need to be spent wisely. With the chance of a permanent signing not imminent after the loan, the value for money is minimal-to-none.
This whole saga will raise a big question over just how committed Tompkins would be to Cardiff Blues, and potentially Wales, as well as how serious he is about playing for the British and Irish Lions next summer, with Saracens set for a season in the English Championship when rugby returns.
Playing at that level will do very little when it comes to enhancing his claims for a spot in the Wales midfield, and without impressing in that red jersey, the chance to wear the other red jersey is non-existent.
His loyalty to Saracens is understandable. Tompkins has come through the system there, is clearly a popular member of the squad, achieved a lot and is comfortable in the setup despite the off-field issues.
However, things have changed very quickly for him and now as a Welsh international priorities may have to shift more towards that element of his career. This means a stint in the second division is not something he can obviously afford to have.
For Cardiff Blues the equation is simple; permanent deal or move on.