Sam could be The Man at the Rugby League World Cup
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English fullback Sam Tomkins attempts to break the line against the Kangaroos. (Image: AAP)
Initially speaking, millions of fans around the world will tune in to watch the adventures of SBW at the RLWC, but the player who will garner most of my attention over the next four weeks is SLT.
Samuel Levi Tomkins is the player I am interested in studying more than any other when rugby league’s World Cup kicks off in Cardiff early Sunday morning (AEDT).
The exceptional Wigan fullback is said to be at least Billy Slater’s equal in the position and by now, everyone knows he is heading to the New Zealand Warriors and the NRL in season 2014 and beyond.
Tomkins, 24, looks to be one of those special players league tosses up once in a generation.
Though lacking the size of many modern day superstars, he has become an absolute standout in the English Super League over the past six years.
He has blistering speed, superb balance, a dazzling step, an uncanny positional sense and a nose for tries.
SLT is also tough, extremely tough, for a man of his stature.
I have watched him turn out plenty of times for Wigan in the Super League competition. The man who scored five tries in his top grade debut looks to be classes above anyone in the northern hemisphere and I have often wondered how he would fare in the NRL.
SLT has played against Australia a couple of times in the past, getting only fleeting chances to showcase his skills, but this looks to be the best England team he has played in.
I am really keen to see how he cuts the mustard against the world’s premier rugby league players.
Tomkins enters the World Cup in fabulous form. His final season with Wigan was stellar, to say the least. He played a starring role in Wigan’s Challenge Cup final win over Hull as well as the thrilling triumph over Warrington in the SL grand final.
“It has been an amazing year,” he told The Independent newspaper in a recent interview.
“I’ve been lucky to win two major trophies and then come into a great England side at the World Cup.
“It’s a great position to be in. Timing-wise, my move (to New Zealand Warriors) was perfect.
“I’m 24, no real ties, no missus or kids. I thought it would be great to go over there for three or four years. Going to the Warriors is something I’m excited about.
“I really want to have a go at the NRL, play my best rugby (league) there. I am going into a quality side, like the one I’m leaving at Wigan.
“So long as I can do my bit for the team, I will be successful and hopefully the team will be as well.”
Tomkins believes this is England’s best chance to win the World Cup since their last success in 1972.
“If you look at the squad we have you have to agree that it is the fittest and most talented. The ability in the side is massive. Our elite players can match anybody so there is no reason why we can’t succeed.”
The newspaper’s chat with Tomkins came a week before the ‘friendly’ against World Cup entrant Italy.
Italy’s stunning 15-14 victory at Salford has brought England’s confidence down a rung (or three), as has some disciplinary problems coach Steve McNamara has dealt with in the wash-up to what some have called ‘The Italian Job’.
Tomkins, however, was one of the few shining lights for England in that game and he shapes as a major threat to Australia in the tournament opener.
If England can shrug off its pre-tournament woes and hit some serious form, watch for some very special cameos from SLT.
SBW might give the Kiwis an X-factor but SLT has the ability to be MOM in each of his World Cup appearances.
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