Warriors fullback Sam Tomkins is prepared to move into the halves if required by England during the Four Nations rugby league tournament in Australia.
Dynamic Warriors fullback Sam Tomkins would be happy to switch to his old halves role for England in the Four Nations but he expects St George Ilawarra’s Gareth Widdop to claim the No.6 jersey.
Tomkins is a certainty for England’s opening match against Samoa in Brisbane on Saturday week but has come under pressure for his fullback spot from Leeds’ Zak Hardaker.
Tomkins, who flew out with his England teammates on Tuesday night and will arrive in Brisbane on Thursday morning (AEDT), has noted the form of Hardaker and welcomes the competition for the No.1 shirt.
“I’ve seen a number of his games this year and he’s been brilliant,” said Tomkins, who returned home when the Warriors failed to reach the NRL finals.
“Zak’s progressing the older he gets and he’s put himself in a great position.
“He has obviously been outstanding this year and (head coach) Steve McNamara’s going to have some tough choices to make.
“But that’s good. It means every week we’re going to put a good team out.”
With only two specialist halves in McNamara’s 24-man squad, Widdop is expected to partner Wigan halfback Matty Smith but Tomkins, who began his career as a five-eighth, is ready to step in if required.
“I’ve not spoken to Steve about that. It will be up to him,” he said.
“But the way I play at fullback, I do a bit of ball handling anyway so it’s not massively different. I’d just get a bit more ball and try and create more than run.
“I wouldn’t be bothered if I did or didn’t, either one or six, if I had an England shirt on I’d be happy.”
Widdop made the switch from fullback to five-eighth after being behind Billy Slater at Melbourne Storm, and was belatedly handed the England No.6 jersey for the World Cup semi-final last November.
“Gaz has been brilliant (for the Dragons) this year,” Tomkins said.
“There were a lot of questions being asked because at Melbourne, Cooper Cronk had always been the dominant half leading the team and Gaz got the ball when Cronk didn’t want it.
“People wondered whether he’d be able to do it without those others around him, but he’s been the dominant half.
“His kicking game is pretty immaculate a lot of the time and you’d think Gaz would be that first choice at six.”
Widdop and Tomkins are among six NRL-based players in the national squad, with Josh Hodgson set to join them when he links up with Canberra ahead of the 2015 season, and the former Man of Steel reckons that will help England’s chances of breaking their Four Nations duck.
“They’ll know a bit more about our players but being in the environment of the NRL, with tough games week in, week out, that will prepare people well for the Four Nations,” Tomkins said.