12:00pm Tuesday 26th February 2013
By Louise Warr
He may have admitted to struggling at points during his early days at Saracens but to the average on-looker Joel Tomkins has taken to Rugby Union like a duck to water.
It seems hard to believe that the former Wigan Warriors player only made the switch to North London in November 2011.
It was somewhat of a dream start in Union for Tomkins having scored two tries for the Men in Black against Worcester Warriors on debut and has since gone on to make the Sarries’ outside centre shirt his own.
To swap one code for another would always have been a risky move. At the time he signed for Sarries, the 25-year-old had already tasted success in league, appearing 125 appearances for Wigan, winning the Challenge Cup with the club, as well as receiving International honours in the 13 man code.
Then within a matter of months Tomkins found himself in a strange city, playing an alien sport in the less than glamorous surroundings of the Aviva A-League, there must have been times when he questioned his move.
Fast forward 12 months and the picture couldn’t be any different for Tomkins. He has produced the most successful offloads in the Aviva Premiership with a total 31, showing that some skills can be used effectively regardless of the code of rugby.
It would be wrong to label him a one trick pony and he has some deceptive pace, something that was shown in his try against Leeds Rhinos at Wembley in the Challenge Cup. A try, that is well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it before.
It isn’t just at club level though that Joel is impressing.
His consistent performances for Sarries have caught the eye of Stuart Lancaster and the England coaching staff too.
Tomkins has not only been promoted from the Saxons into the full Elite Player Squad but has retained his place in the revised 31 man squad ahead of the Italy clash on 10th March.
In doing so he joins his ever reliable club centre partner Brad Barritt, Leicester Tigers’ wrecking ball Manu Tuilagi and recent debutant Billy Twelvetrees from Gloucester in the fight for the two starting places.
If his progress continues in the manner it has done, it won’t be long before we see Joel pulling on the red rose for the full England Squad.
That would be a huge achievement in itself but ensuring his place alongside a host of fellow dual internationals would particularly noteworthy.
There may have been a few dark times during the early months of his big adventure in Union, but it is starting to look like the future may just be very bright indeed for Joel Tomkins.
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