Cap No 1125
Although Tom Francis was born in York, he qualified to play for Wales through his grandmother, Eirlys Walters, who was born in Abercrave. He started playing rugby at the age of four at Malton & Norton RFC, in Yorkshire, and played 2nd XV rugby at Leeds University, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering. After graduating he signed his first professional contract with Doncaster Knights in 2012. Former Pontypridd full back Brett Davey was coaching at the Knights at the time.
In 2013, he moved on to London Scottish, where his scrummaging talent was spotted by Exeter Chiefs director of rugby, Rob Baxter. He joined the Chiefs at the start of the 2014/15 season and made his first Premiership start against London Welsh on 7 September, 2014. His European debut followed on 25 October in the home win over Connacht in Challenge Cup.
He made 20 appearances for the Chiefs in his debut season and was named in the 2014/15 Premiership ‘Team of the Season’. On 9 March, 2015, Warren Gatland called him up to train with Wales and he was added to the Wales squad for the final 6 Nations game against Italy later on that month. Three months later he was selected in Wales’ 47-man World Cup training squad and he made his international debut in the 16-10 warm-up match victory in Ireland on 29 August, 2015. His World Cup debut came as a replacement in the win over Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium on 20 September and he went on to play a part in all five Welsh matches at the 2015 tournament.
He was banned for eight weeks after appearing to make contact with the “eye or eye area” of England’s Dan Cole in the Six Nations defeat at Twickenham in 2016, but returned to international action on the three-Test tour to New Zealand that summer. He was back in New Zealand with Wales on their next tour in 2017. After helping Wales to beat Tonga in Auckland he was one of four Welsh players invited to train with the British & Irish Lions squad. He sat on the replacements bench for the games against the Chiefs and Hurricanes, but didn’t get on.
He featured in the 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 Premiership finals, helping the Chiefs to win at Twickenham in 2017, and started four of the five 6 Nations matches in 2019 as Wales won the Grand Slam.