ADMITTING he did not leave Doncaster Knights on “great terms”, Wales prop Tomas Francis revealed he received a letter from the club’s director of rugby Clive Griffiths in the build-up to their epic 21-13 win over England.
Exeter Chiefs tighthead Francis, who was born in Yorkshire but qualifies for Wales via a Welsh grandmother, continued his remarkable rise with another fine display in Cardiff on Saturday.
He was plucked by Doncaster from North One East club Malton and Norton in 2012 and spent 18 months at Castle Park before joining London Scottish.
After a season at Scottish, Exeter took a gamble and soon he was a Premiership title winner, playing for Wales and even getting a call-up for the British Lions. Asked if he expected a congratulatory call from Welshman Griffiths, the former Wales defence coach, Francis, 26, said: “I actually got a letter from him the other day just to say how well I’d done.
“I didn’t leave on great terms with him; Doncaster got relegated (in 2013) and I had a clause to get out and go to another Championship club. But I’ve seen him around a few times in camp. He was around once and, yes, he sent me a letter which was nice.”
Francis, who was born near York and grew up in the Ryedale village of Westow, played 20 games for Doncaster. His Twitter handle still remains as ‘donnytommy’.
“As a young prop playing week in, week out, the Championship was key for me,” recalled the former University of Leeds student. “I learnt my trade there, then (Exeter coach) Rob Baxter gave me my opportunity and Warren (Gatland) gave me this one.
“If it wasn’t for that (Doncaster stint) I wouldn’t be here. It was a great experience, too, packing down against (Exeter team-mate) Ben (Moon) and nice to swap shirts afterwards.
“But what an atmosphere and what a finish at the end.”
As a young prop playing week in, week out, the Championship was key for me – I learnt my trade there.Wales prop, Tomas Francis