Tomkins to switch codes to play for Baa-Baas
Updated: November 21, 2011, 09:18
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LONDON(AP) In what many will see as a pre-cursor to his eventual move to the 15-man code, England rugby league star Sam Tomkins will turn out for invitational rugby union team the Barbarians in Saturday's international against Australia at Twickenham.
The 22-year-old Tomkins is currently the brightest talent in English rugby league, in which he will remain for the next three years after signing a new contract with Wigan Warriors despite heavy interest from a number of the country's rugby union clubs.
However, with more money on offer in union and with some of league's biggest names such as Jason Robinson and Chris Ashton having switched codes over the past decade, it seems only a matter of time before Tomkins does the same.
This weekend's non-cap international against the Wallabies provides the smooth-running fullback with an ideal opportunity to test himself against - and alongside - union's best.
Tomkins was named Monday in the Barbarians' 22-man squad after he was given Wigan's blessing to play in the game in London.
The likes of South Africa winger Bryan Habana and New Zealand flanker Jerome Kaino, two World Cup winners, are also in the Barbarians squad, but Tomkins' performance will be particularly scrutinized.
"The Barbarian club has a tradition of thinking outside the circle when inviting players with league backgrounds, and usually to everyone's benefit,'' Barbarians commercial director Mike Burton said. "In recent years the likes of (Australian players) Mat Rogers, Lote Tuqiri, Wendell Sailor and, a few months ago, Willie Mason, have all made a mark when playing for us on the big stage. We are confident that Sam will be equal to the challenge this week.''
Tomkins, who could play either at fullback or in the centers in union, was a key member of the England rugby league team that reached the final of the Four Nations tournament, only to lose 30-8 to Australia in Leeds on Saturday.
"Sam is an exceptional player in either code of rugby and his selection shows the growing mutual respect between the codes of rugby league and rugby union in England,'' said Wigan owner Ian Lenagan. "It's a great opportunity for Sam to experience the Twickenham atmosphere and showcase his talents on another major stage.''
The Barbarians will be coached by Graham Henry, who last month led New Zealand to World Cup success on home soil.