Sam Tomkins: Steve McNamara believes full-back could have led England to 2017 World Cup glory

Former national coach Steve McNamara believes England would have won the last Rugby League World Cup had full-back Sam Tomkins played in the final.

England were beaten 6-0 by Australia in the decider in Brisbane in 2017 and will hope to go one better in the 2021 tournament, which takes place on these shores in the autumn.

As new England boss Shaun Wane prepares to unveil his latest squad, Tomkins provided another reminder of his class with a man-of-the-match performance in Catalans Dragons’ 20-10 win over Huddersfield in the second round of the Betfred Super League.

The 32-year-old is facing competition for the England No 1 shirt from Zak Hardaker (Wigan Warriors) and Jake Connor (Hull FC), but Dragons head coach McNamara insists the former Wigan full-back has the edge.

“There are some very good players and Sam is up there, but what separates him from the others is his leadership skills,” McNamara said.

“He is a genuine leader and, in my opinion, if Sam Tomkins plays full-back in the World Cup final in Brisbane, England score enough points to win the game.”

Tomkins helped create tries for Matt Whitley and Mike McMeeken which set the Dragons up for a second successive victory at the start of the season.

“It’s a pleasing start,” McNamara said. “We had a very limited period to get ready as a team and to find those two wins, in different styles, puts us in a good position.”

The Catalans currently pay for their own charter flights to comply with Covid-19 restrictions and face a third successive trip to England next week for their Challenge Cup tie with Wakefield Trinity.

But McNamara says the prospect of a third national lockdown in France should not prevent them playing in Perpignan later in the month.

“The rules for us are pretty much the same,” McNamara said. “There is not an issue with it whatsoever.”

The result leaves McNamara’s opposite number Ian Watson waiting for his first win as Huddersfield coach.

They were still without skipper Aidan Sezer, who will also miss next week’s Challenge Cup tie against Leigh Centurions with a calf strain, and may also be without second rower Joe Greenwood, who is facing a ban after being sent off for a high tackle on centre Samisoni Langi.

“In the first half we didn’t give ourselves a chance in the game,” Watson said. “We were poor with our discipline on the back of sets.

“We learned the lessons for the second half and Jack Cogger kicked them to death, but it shouldn’t have to take us that long. It will click at some point, it’s building that mentality into the players.

“Obviously you miss someone like Aidan, but the team today was still good enough to win, as it was against Hull.”

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