Sam Tomkins appointed captain of England against the Combined Nations All Stars

Sam Tomkins has been appointed England’s captain for Friday’s match against the Combined Nations All Stars.

The 32-year-old Catalans Dragons full-back will lead out his side at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium on his 30th England appearance, almost nine years since he announced himself on the international scene with a hat-trick of tries on debut against Wales in Bridgend.

Tomkins takes on the England role from his old Wigan team-mate Sean O’Loughlin, who led England against New Zealand in 2018 and retired at the end of the 2020 season, and will be in pole position to lead his country in the end-of-season World Cup.

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England coach Shaun Wane said: “I’ve known Sam a long time and he’s the perfect captain.

“He handles himself well, he’s a very skilful player, plays a key part in games and offers real quality from full-back.”

Tomkins demonstrated his commitment to the England cause by driving for 16 hours from his home in the south of France to link up with the squad last weekend.

Tomkins said: “Being named captain of England is right up there with anything I’ve achieved in the game.

Sam Tomkins File Photo
Sam Tomkins says it will be a career highlight to lead England on Friday (Martin Rickett/PA)

“I’ve been really lucky to represent England a number of times over the years but becoming captain is something else.

“I’ve played under some great captains over the years – Sinfield, O’Loughlin, Peacock – and hopefully I’ve picked some things up from them. Shaun will expect me to lead from the front, which is what I intend to do.

“The journey from France was something out of the ordinary. A 16-hour drive isn’t normal preparation for an England game but Covid has turned the world upside down in lots of ways.

“I was told I’d have to drive in a single hit – no hotel stops, pay-at-the-pump petrol stations – but playing for England is something I’ve wanted to do since I was seven years old so a 16-hour drive is nothing against being able to pull on an England shirt.”

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Meanwhile, Wigan second rower John Bateman has defended Friday’s fixture which has drawn criticism after it clashed with a round of Super League fixtures.

“I can’t get my head around why people wouldn’t want it to be played,” Bateman said.

“People say the domestic game takes priority but for me the international game is what it’s all about.

“Playing for your country is one of the best feelings ever. Some of these boys haven’t done it yet going out there and making their debuts this weekend, that’s what it’s all about, to be able to see players do that.

“For myself, I will never get bored of it, I will play for my country until the day I stop playing rugby.”

The mid-season game has been arranged to help Wane in his preparations for the World Cup.

Bateman, who played in the 2017 World Cup final, added: “It’s a big stepping stone for us as a team. We want to go out and win the World Cup and these games play a massive part in that.”

Bateman returned to Wigan at the start of the season after a stint in the NRL with Canberra Raiders.