RUGBY : England’s hopes of success in tonight’s Gillette Four Nations final rest with two players who could not even get in their club sides at the start of the season.
England’s hopes of success in tonight’s Gillette Four Nations final rest with two players who could not even get in their club sides at the start of the season.
Super League players might have echoed Johnathan Thurston’s “Kyle who?” response had they been asked back in February for the likely occupant of the England number seven jersey. Kyle Eastmond is favourite to take over from Sean Long at St Helens but he was well down the pecking order at the start of the year while Sam Tomkins only got his chance at Wigan due to injury to Australian Tim Smith a third of the way through the season.
“I can’t wait,” said Tomkins. “This is a game I’ve dreamed of playing. I just want to get started.”
They only came together at Test level for England’s 20-12 win over New Zealand a week ago but the youngsters have played alongside each other for their country in the past and their rivalry goes back a decade.
“We were the half-backs two years ago for England under-18s against France and we’ve played against each other since we were 10,” said Tomkins. “We were in the same year.
“So we know each other’s games pretty well and we’ve been getting to know each other more with training so much together. It makes it easier to play with someone the better you know them.”
As Tomkins has grown into the England set-up, so the team has gradually improved from their patchy beginning against France to their impressive win over the Kiwis.
The Wigan stand-off is naturally delighted with his progress but is quick to pay tribute to the efforts of the England pack for creating the space for him and Eastmond to work their magic.
“It’s always easier for half-backs to play when the forwards are getting on top and we’ve a great pack to play behind,” he said. “I’m trying to pick up new things every week in training but the main thing is the team is coming together.
“People who have watched from the Wales game, through France and New Zealand can see we’re improving every week. And we’re going to improve again this week to give ourselves a real chance of winning.”