Sam Tomkins to captain England

James Gordon

Sam Tomkins has been named England captain for the clash with Combined Nations All Stars on Friday night.

Tomkins, 32, drove for 16 hours from France to join up with the squad, to avoid quarantine restrictions, and will lead out the team at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

It is the first England international since the 2018 series against New Zealand, when Sean O’Loughlin and James Graham captained the side on separate occasions, though both have since hung up their boots.

Tomkins said: “Being named captain of England is right up there with anything I’ve achieved in the game. I’ve been really lucky to represent England a number of times over the years, but becoming captain is something else.

“I’ve played under some great captains over the years – Sinfield, O’Loughlin, Peacock – and hopefully I’ve picked some things up from them. Shaun will expect me to lead from the front, which is what I intend to do.

“The journey from France was something out of the ordinary. A 16-hour drive isn’t normal preparation for an England game, but Covid has turned the world upside down in lots of ways.

“I was told I’d have to drive in a single hit – no hotel stops, pay-at-the-pump petrol stations – but playing for England is something I’ve wanted to do since I was seven years old, so a 16-hour drive is nothing against being able to pull on an England shirt.”

The full-back position has been one of the big talking points this year, with the form of Wigan’s Zak Hardaker and Hull’s Jake Connor – who will play against England for the All Stars – catching the headlines.

But Tomkins has been a stand out for Catalans himself, and is one of the leaders in the Man of Steel rankings, an award the former Wigan man won in 2012

England Head Coach, Shaun Wane, added: “I’ve known Sam a long time and he’s the perfect captain. He handles himself well, he’s a very skilful player, plays a key part in games and offers real quality from full-back.”

It will be Tomkins’ 30th England appearance, although only 25 count as official caps – three games against the Exiles and a further game against New Zealand Maori were not recognised as full tests.

Tomkins’ Catalans team-mate Tom Davies also made the drive to England, albeit separately with his partner, and is in line to make his debut, alongside five other uncapped players.

St Helens prop Alex Walmsley has withdrawn from the squad due to a knee injury.

England 18-man squad: John Bateman (Wigan Warriors); Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Ben Currie (all Warrington Wolves); Tom Davies (Catalans Dragons); Liam Farrell (Wigan Warriors); Luke Gale, Ash Handley (both Leeds Rhinos); Morgan Knowles (St Helens); Reece Lyne (Wakefield Trinity); Jonny Lomax (St Helens); Paul McShane (Castleford Tigers); Tommy Makinson (St Helens); Mikolaj Oledzki (Leeds Rhinos); Joe Philbin, Stefan Ratchford (both Warrington Wolves); Sam Tomkins (Catalans Dragons); Joe Westerman (Wakefield Trinity).