England captain Sam Tomkins says that facing the Combined Nations All Stars this week is the ‘next best thing’ to coming up against the world’s heavyweights.
Saturday’s game at the Halliwell Jones Stadium will act as a warm-up for the World Cup. It will be the second year running that England have faced a Combined Nations side.
Though one of the favourites for the delayed tournament, the Wall of White have faced only France – aside from the Combined Nations – since 2018.
“Saturday’s match is an essential part of our preparation for the World Cup. We’d have liked to have gone and played a Southern Hemisphere team, but logistically, it just doesn’t work,” Tomkins told Love Rugby League.
“We understand the challenges that brings, but what we’ve got against us is the next best thing. We’ve got a lot of overseas players that want to prove themselves, and they want to give us the best challenge possible.
“To get prepared for the World Cup, you need to be playing games. No matter who it’s against, it’s about getting the England systems right to play as one team. That’s what this week will give us.”
For Club and Country
Catalans full back Tomkins has already represented his country at two World Cups. His England debut came 13 years ago, scoring a hat-trick on debut against Wales.
Vastly experienced, the 33-year-old is a three-time Grand Final winner. All of those came at Wigan working alongside current Wall of White boss Shaun Wane.
The pair know what it takes to win trophies, and with players from nine Super League clubs in this weekend’s England squad, Tomkins added, “The main thing for us this week is playing as a team.
“Everyone plays slightly differently at club level, so coming into England, it might be a bit different to that. It’s about everyone getting on board with that meaning that come October when the World Cup starts, we’re all a little bit closer to being in complete sync with each other.
“There are people who aren’t in the squad now that will be come the World Cup, I’m sure. There’s people here now who will be dropped by then as well. Everyone’s just got to be on top form, for club and for country when we get the opportunity.”
Saturday’s game kicks off at 5:45pm. It is preceded by the women’s international between England and France (KO 3:15pm).
Afterwards, England have so far only plans to play one further warm-up fixture prior to the World Cup. Expected to be against Fiji at Rochdale’s Crown Oil Arena, further details are awaited.