Former Great Britain coach Wayne Bennett has revealed that he regrets not selecting England superstar Sam Tomkins on the Lions tour in 2019.
Tomkins, who has won 25 caps for his country, played in the halves in England’s series win over New Zealand on home soil back in 2018.
Bennett described England’s series win over the Kiwis as one of the highlights of his coaching career.
“We had 10 players missing from the World Cup pulling out, not because they didn’t want to be there but because of injuries,” Bennett recalled on James Graham’s The Bye Round Podcast.
“There were so many good players that weren’t there but we just pulled together as a group.
“We won at Hull in a tough game, guys stood up who I had not heard a lot about. We then went to Liverpool and what a wonderful game that was that day.
“It is right up there with the highlights of my coaching career.
“Sam Tomkins was playing half-back but he put his hand up in the team meeting. We had a problem at half-back because they were all injured but he said ‘I’ll play half-back’ and I thought ‘bloody hell, if you are that confident to play then I’ll give you the job’.”
Wayne Bennett: I know now I made a mistake
Tomkins, a former Man of Steel, then represented England in the Nines World Cup the following year.
However, he was not selected by Bennett for Great Britain’s tour of the southern hemisphere. The Lions tour got underway pretty much straight after the Nines tournament.
“I made a mistake the following year (2019),” Bennett admitted. “I let him go back home after we’d played the Nines.
“He hadn’t been selected in the (GB) team. I had to make some decisions and I let him go back to England. I know now I made a mistake.
“He was a player that brought a helluva lot to you guys in his own way. He didn’t make big line breaks but he just told everyone what to do and bossed them around and played his heart out. It was very special.”
The Lions didn’t win a game on the tour, having lost to New Zealand twice, Tonga and Papua New Guinea.
Tomkins, who has made the Super League Dream Team five times, will be hoping to lead England to World Cup glory this autumn.