Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has warned of the difficulties of switching to rugby union before Sam Tomkins’ history-making appearance for the Barbarians on Saturday at Twickenham.
The Wigan fullback will become the first contracted rugby league player to be selected for the Barbarians and he’ll have the unique distinction of playing against the Kangaroos and Wallabies in successive weeks.
The 22-year-old livewire was well contained and struggled under the high ball at times during England’s 30-8 loss to Australia in Saturday night’s Four Nations rugby league final in Leeds.
And Deans said changing codes was never a simple proposition.
“It is a tough transition,” Deans told AAP.
“Not too many have made that transition to be fair, successfully.
“It will create a lot of interest.”
With Tomkins only having a handful of training sessions to come to grips with the 15-a-side game, Wallabies skipper James Horwill said he should expect a searching examination at Twickenham.
“I think it will add an extra spice to the game,” Horwill said.
“It will be interesting to see how a guy that has not played any rugby recently takes on an international side.”
With Berrick Barnes and James O’Connor expected to fill the five eighth and inside centre roles, an aerial assault could be on Australia’s agenda.
“That is something we will look at during the week,” Horwill said.
The appearance of Tomkins playing rugby union is certain to attract plenty of attention from both codes.
His older brother Joel recently crossed to rugby union while Sam signed a five-year deal with Wigan, including a clause not to talk to rugby union clubs for at least three years.
The timing of the fixture is one of the major reasons for the availability of the younger Tomkins as he has finished his rugby league commitments for the season.
However the Wallabies have plenty of other elusive Barbarians players to worry about this week.
Deans conceded that creative Melbourne Rebels five eighth Danny Cipriani loomed as a major threat – especially given the tradition of the Barbarians for playing an open game.
“He will enjoy the nature of the game,” Deans said.
“He is a very good player and will be given a license to do that.
“We suffered in 2008 against him (in Australia’s 28-14 win against England). He broke the line a couple of times with some really good touches.”
Wallabies captain James Horwill said planning for Cipriani was never easy.
“It is hard to pick what he will and won’t do … during the Super Rugby season he really took teams apart,” he said.
Following the intense scrutiny of the World Cup, Horwill said the Wallabies were looking forward to playing with more freedom.
“We want to play an attractive style of play, I think it will be a fairly entertaining spectacle from a fans’ point of view,” he said.
“We will go out there and see what we can do.
“We want to get a result.”