Tomkins to shed understudy tag

Thu, 26 Dec 2013 14:25
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He was described during the year-end internationals as simply keeping the England No.13 shirt warm for the injured Manu Tuilagi, but Saracens' Joel Tomkins has very different ideas.

He was described during the year-end internationals as simply keeping the England No.13 shirt warm for the injured Manu Tuilagi, but Saracens' Joel Tomkins has very different ideas.

With British and Irish Lions duo Brad Barritt and Tuilagi injured for the year-end internationals, boss Stuart Lancaster turned to the inexperienced pairing of Tomkins and Gloucester's Billy Twelvetrees to fire England's backline.

Without looking fluid at times - Tomkins, who made his international debut in the win over Australia in November - and Twelvetrees helped England to victories over the Wallabies and Argentina, while they even ran the world's No.1 team New Zealand close at Twickenham.

With the Six Nations on the horizon after Christmas, a tour of New Zealand in mid-year and of course a home World Cup in 2015 - Tomkins is well aware of the need to shine.

But the Saracens man knows it's his performances for his club side in the Premiership - once he recovers from the knee injury suffered against the All Blacks - that will count as he looks to catch the eye of Lancaster.

"There is always pressure - there are always going to be good players in every position - that is what international rugby is all about," said Tomkins.

"It's just about playing well for your club week-in, week-out, then if you do get your chance to play for England, you have got to take it with both hands.

"Injuries always come and go - it's part of sport - and if other people get injured and you get an opportunity you have got to take it.

"I never really worry too much about other players in my position. I just try and concentrate on how I'm playing and if I play well enough to get the call, then happy days."

While his brother Sam was plying his trade for England in the Rugby League World Cup, Joel Tomkins was enjoying his first taste of international rugby union with Lancaster's men at Twickenham in the year-end.

And Tomkins insists mixing with the best of the Premiership at England's Surrey training base at the Pennyhill Park Hotel, watching how other players worked, behaved and more-importantly performed, made him a better player on his return to Saracens.

And with Saracens riding high in the Premiership going into Christmas - having run in six tries in demolishing Leicester Tigers on Saturday - few would argue against Tomkins' claim.

"It was just a great experience, to be involved," added Tomkins. "That is one of the main reasons I came to rugby union, because I aspired to play in the international set up.

"I'll be better for the experience - it has whetted my appetite now for more international honours and hopefully if I can play well at Saracens I might get some more caps.

"It's going to make me a better player, from being around those guys and in that environment, and I really enjoyed it.

"Obviously the result didn't go our way against the All Blacks but we pushed them close and I think there is a great platform there for the England team to build on now leading up to the World Cup."

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