Sam Tomkins ready for Super League season after ‘grim’ World Cup exit

Sam Tomkins ready for Super League season after ‘grim’ World Cup exit

Three months after exiting the Emirates Stadium stony-faced in the wake of England’s shock World Cup semi-final defeat to Samoa, Sam Tomkins is relishing the return of a Betfred Super League season that he believes could be among the most competitive on record.

Tomkins endured a “grim” week dealing with the fall-out of Samoa’s stunning golden-point success before returning to the south of France to begin preparations for a fourth campaign with Catalans Dragons, who get under way against Wakefield at Belle Vue on Friday night.

The 33-year-old’s own season will not start until next month as he fights to regain fitness following post-World Cup knee surgery, but despite the lingering fall-out from that England heartbreak, his enthusiasm for another assault on the play-offs remains undimmed.

Sam Tomkins File Photo
Sam Tomkins has shrugged off the “grim” memories of World Cup disappointment (Mike Egerton/PA)

“When you go through an experience of getting knocked out you spend a few days going through every scenario and how things might have been different, but then you reach a point where you’ve got to switch off and get on with things,” Tomkins told the PA news agency.

“It was a pretty grim period and you soon become sick of people asking about it. It was very tough to take at the time so getting home to France with my family was a nice relief, and really the catalyst for being able to resume normal life again.

“I’ve never taken losing very well but I’ve lost big games in the past and been able to deal with it, and I’ve managed to deal with this in the same way. It’s not a case of learning anything from the experience, you just get on with what you were doing before.”

Castleford Tigers v Catalans Dragons – Betfred Super League – Mend-A-Hose Jungle
Tomkins believes Catalans Dragons can upset the odds once again (Richard Sellers/PA)

The new season kicks off when Warrington face Leeds at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Thursday night before a new-look Catalans side, shorn of 10 squad members by head coach Steve McNamara in the wake of a disappointing end to their 2022 campaign, aim to exceed external expectations with another play-off push.

Despite often upsetting the odds since their arrival in the top-flight, winning the Challenge Cup in 2018 and reaching the Grand Final three years later, questions have been raised over the French club’s ability to sustain their momentum given the nature of their new-look squad.

“I’ve seen some of the predictions and they don’t really concern me,” added Tomkins. “We know we’re being doubted as not as good as we have been in previous years, but we are the ones who are in control of how our season will go.

“We’re used to being written off. People didn’t expect us to win the Challenge Cup or to reach the Grand Final. We’ve lost a few players over the close season but we’ve retained a lot of pivotal players in key positions, and we haven’t left too big of a hole.

“I think there’s a lot to be excited about in Super League this season. Some of the best players in the game have re-signed to Super League clubs, and we haven’t lost that many. There is often a danger of putting a negative spin on things.

“John Bateman has gone to the NRL but think of the calibre of players we could be losing – Jack Welsby, Jonny Lomax, George Williams – who are all still here. There is a lot of talent in the game so it’s important that we don’t get down-hearted about it.”

Despite painful recent memories, Tomkins is also eager to haul an England jersey back on as soon as possible and lead the national team back into high-profile clashes with the giants of the southern hemisphere.

Uncertainty continues to swirl around the immediate international calendar, with only an April match against France as yet inked into the diary, and the future of England coach Shaun Wane is continuing to be discussed.

“The World Cup showed there is still an appetite for international rugby league and I think the only way to capitalise on that is to get more games and really good games – we want to play the best like Australia and Zealand, Tonga and Samoa,” added Tomkins.

“It’s obvious to me that Shaun is still the man for the job, provided he has still got the passion for it. To be fair to him, we need to put a programme in place before he can make the decision. For Shaun to be at his best, he needs to know he has something to get his teeth into.”