Tomkins out for revenge

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Published: Thursday 6th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Sam Tomkins says it will be payback time when England face New Zealand in Dunedin on Saturday for a place in the Four Nations Series final.

The clash at the futuristic Forsyth Barr Stadium will be the first meeting of the teams since Shaun Johnson’s converted try 20 seconds from the end of last November’s World Cup semi-final at Wembley cruelly denied England a place in the final.

James Graham has gone on record to say the effects of that heart-breaking finish “will probably stay with me until the day I die” but Tomkins reckons victory on Saturday would go some way towards erasing the bitter memory.

“I know that all the players involved were hurting after that game, as you can imagine,” Tomkins said.

“We certainly feel like we owe them one for that, with Shaun Johnson getting one over us in the last minute.”

Tomkins became a team-mate of Johnson’s after the World Cup and has witnessed the creative skills of the talented half-back close up during his maiden season in the NRL.

The England full-back will be up against another three of his New Zealand Warriors club-mates in Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai and Simon Mannering and has been able to offer coach Steve McNamara and the squad an insight into their strengths and weaknesses.

“I was getting asked a few questions – ‘what does this bloke do?’ and things like that,” Tomkins said.

“I’ve offered a couple of little bits to the coaches on how certain players play but nothing you can’t see by watching the video of how they played against Australia and Samoa. The Warriors lads that are playing are all world class.

“The Kiwis are a very good side, as we all know, and we are going to have to do a great job to go out and beat them. We are going to give it our best.”

The Four Nations Series has reunited Tomkins with seven of his old Wigan team-mates, including older brother Joel, who returned to the 13-man code in the summer after a three-year flirtation with rugby union.

“It’s good to have some familiar faces around and it’s good especially with the amount of young lads in this group,” said Sam. “They have added a bit of energy to the group, so it’s a good place to be.

“I have certainly missed playing alongside Joel. It’s been a few years now but I think he is enjoying being back in league. It’s where he belongs – he is a league player really.”

Joel was a surprise addition to McNamara’s 24-man squad after playing just seven games for his club but has started both Four Nations matches so far and is set to win his sixth cap on Saturday.

He is delighted to be back in league but modestly plays down comparisons with other cross-code returnees.

“Guys like Sonny Bill Williams and Brad Thorn are at a different level to me,” he said. “I’m just a bloke trying to do his best and not a superstar like them.

“It was an amazing experience in rugby union. Opportunities like that don’t come around very often and to play at Twickenham against those teams was special.

“I really enjoyed it but I was approached to return to league and the timing was perfect.

“I feel I am a better league player than union player. That is the bottom line.”

Joel, who was in the team alongside Sam that lost to New Zealand in Wellington four years ago, is confident the England pack can lay a foundation for the 10-point victory that would secure a return trip to the Westpac Stadium on Saturday week.

“We’ve got a bit of experience playing the Kiwis so we’ll go into the Test with some confidence and hopefully get the job done,” he said.

“They’ve probably been the best pack around for the past few years so hopefully we can lay down a marker and go toe to toe with them.

“We have to win by 10 or more, which does add a little pressure, but we’ll be trying not to think about that too much. If we put on a good performance, the points will come.”

Published: Thursday 6th November 2014 by The News Editor

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