Steve McNamara backs Sam Tomkins for England spot


Former national coach Steve McNamara believes England would have won the last World Cup had full-back Sam Tomkins played in the final.

England were beaten 6-0 by Australia in the decider in Brisbane in 2017 and will hope to go one better in the 2021 tournament, which takes place in England in the autumn.

As new England boss Shaun Wane prepares to unveil his latest squad, Tomkins provided another reminder of his class with a man of the match performance in Catalans Dragons’ 20-10 win over Huddersfield in the second round of the Betfred Super League.

Tomkins is facing competition for the England number one shirt from Zak Hardaker (Wigan) and Jake Connor (Hull), but Catalans coach McNamara insists the former Wigan full-back has the edge.

“There are some very good players and Sam is up there, but what separates him from the others is his leadership skills,” said McNamara.

“He is a genuine leader and, in my opinion, if Sam Tomkins plays full-back in the World Cup final in Brisbane, England score enough points to win the game.”

Tomkins helped create first-half tries for Matt Whitley and Mike McMeeken which set the Dragons up for a second successive victory at the start of the season.

“It’s a pleasing start,” McNamara said. “We had a very limited period to get ready as a team and to find those two wins, in different styles, puts us in a good position.”

The Catalans currently pay for their own charter flights to comply with Covid restrictions and face a third successive trip to England next week for their Challenge Cup tie with Wakefield, but McNamara says the prospect of a third national lockdown in France should not prevent them playing in Perpignan later in the month.

“The rules for us are pretty much the same,” he said. “There is not an issue with it whatsoever.

“The only reason we can’t play at home in the Cup next week is down to the BBC who want to show the game.”

The first half at the Totally Wicked Stadium lasted almost an hour due to a series of stoppages, with several Dragons players needing running repairs on cuts.

Centre Dean Whare, who played on with a broken nose, was among those affected.

“Rugby league players are a tough breed,” McNamara said. “There was blood everywhere. Dean is still bleeding now. He got cut early but held his gloves up for the rest of the game.”

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