Former Great Britain captain Paul Sculthorpe MBE is convinced it is too early to describe Wigan Warriors wing Sam Tomkins as a ‘former’ England player.
Following his omission from the 2017 World Cup squad, Tomkins discovered earlier this month he had been left out of 21-man Elite Performance Squad to play in the mid-season Test and Autumn International Test Series with New Zealand.
England do not appear to be suffering in the 28-year-old’s absence having reached the World Cup final, losing narrowly to Australia.
But Sculthorpe is convinced Tomkins can force his way back in to head coach Wayne Bennett’s plans if he can remain consistent for Wigan.
“The EPS is not a closed shop,” said Sculthorpe, speaking at the launch of the Dacia #FlairPlay challenge, which gives grassroots clubs the chance to train with the pros.
“It’s been selected off players that went over to the World Cup and from early season form in Super League.
“There will be a review half way through the year and it’s based on beating New Zealand in a Test series at the end of the year, so it’s far from a closed squad. There could be players coming in and players going out.
“So it’s just an incentive for players to keep performing and no doubt if Sam continues with the form he’s shown in the last few weeks he could play a big part in it.”
Tomkins’ Wigan have made a curious start to the Super League season by their own high standards.
In the opening day win over Salford Red Devils they turned a four-point advantage at half-time into a 40-12 triumph.
And the story was similar against Hull FC as Super League went on the road to Wollongong, with Shaun Wane’s men winning 24-10 having led by just two points at the interval.
Defeat to Warrington Wolves on their return to the north west looked as though it had been coming.
But back-to-back victories at DW Stadium have Warriors on track as they begin to look ahead to their top of the table clash with St Helens at the end of the month.
“They started off slow at the beginning of the year, but certainly in the last few weeks they’ve hit a bit of form – although that seems to come in the second half of games,” said double Man of Steel Sculthorpe.
“I think a lot of it is the way that Shaun’s [Wane] rotated his players and I think the thing you see in the second half of a lot of games is the move of Sam Tomkins into the half-backs and Morgan Escaré into full-back and it’s certainly making a difference, with Sam Powell going into nine.
“So it was always going to be a bit of a transition period for Wigan as well this year, and obviously they’ve got George Williams in there as well.”
Last time out Wigan trailed Wakefield Trinity 12-10 at the break, before winger Joe Burgess took the game by the scruff of the neck, running in a hat-trick.
And Sculthorpe believes the form of Burgess can prove pivotal to Wigan’s quest for success.
“We all know what Joe’s capable of and, at times, he’s been inconsistent, but he certainly found his feet against Wakefield and I’m sure Shaun Wane and his staff are into the players to continue that now and really grow,” Sculthorpe added.
“They’ve got a lot of talent throughout this team and I think it’s about getting players back on form.
“Wigan are a quality club, one of the biggest names in the world of Rugby League.”
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