Sam Tomkins set for England return at half-back in first Test with New Zealand

Posted by On 7:52 AM

Sam Tomkins set for England return at half-back in first Test with New Zealand

England rugby league team Sam Tomkins set for England return at half-back in first Test with New Zealand • Tomkins selected in unusual role after four-year absence
• Hull’s Jake Connor preferred to Mark Percival at centre

Sam Tomkins, centre, will make his first England appearance for four years against New Zealand on Saturday.
Sam Tomkins, centre, will make his first England appearance for four years against New Zealand on Saturday. Photograph: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com/REX/Shutterstock

Wigan full-back Sam Tomkins will make his England return after a four-year absence against New Z ealand â€" at half-back, alongside club teammate George Williams.

The England head coach Wayne Bennett has announced his starting line-up for Saturday’s first Test in Hull, with the major talking point being the recall of Tomkins, who will move to Catalans Dragons for the start of next season.

'Nerves are good': George Williams prepares for England v New Zealand Read more

Tomkins has largely played at full-back for Wigan in their run to the Super League title this season, but St Helens’ Jonny Lomax is preferred in that position by Bennett.

Another eye-catching selection is that of Hull FC utility back Jake Connor at centre ahead of Mark Percival. Although his preferred position is stand-off, Connor is confident he can justify his selection in the three-quarters. “I’ve played a lot of centre in my time,” he said. “It’s not new to me. I’ll try to do the same job that I’ve always done.”

The only debutant on Saturd ay will be the Wigan centre Oliver Gildart. “It’s not sunk in yet, I think the nerves will hit me tomorrow building up to the game,” Gildart said. “Obviously it’s all new to me so I’m kind of just taking it in my stride. It’s a massive honour, there’s some great players in this squad and I’m really privileged to get my chance.”

Michael Maguire, the New Zealand head coach, first switched Tomkins to full-back while he was coach at Wigan, and has warned his team to be wary of his former charge.

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“He helped me a few times when I was [at Wigan],” Maguire said. “He’s won a couple of Grand Finals and a couple of Challenge Cups. He’s a quality player and, once he’s got the ball in his hand, you’ve got to be alert.

“He’s like a rubber man â€" he bounces all over the place and he loves to show the ball,” Maguire added. “We’ve going to have to ma ke sure we’re very strong defensively.”

Maguire has named the same 17-man squad that upset Australia earlier this month, winning 26-24 in Auckland. Eleven of Maguire’s players have fewer than 10 international caps, with Shaun Johnson the most experienced starter with 26 caps.

England team for first Test: Lomax; Makinson, Gildart, Connor, McGillvary; Williams, Tomkins; Hill, Hodgson, Graham, Whitehead, Bateman, O’Loughlin. Interchange: Clark, Thompson, G Burgess, T Burgess.

New Zealand team: Watene-Zelezniak; Maumalo, Marsters, Manu, Rapana; Johnson, Nikorima; Bromwich, Smith, Waerea-Hargreaves, Proctor, Liu, Fisher-Harris. Interchange: Bromwich, Ah Mau, Taupau, Blair.

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  • Rugby league
  • New Zealand rugby league
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Source: Google News New Zealand | Netizen 24 New Zealand

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