12 Oct 2022
Tomkins tips Welsby to light up World Cup for England
Welsby starred for St Helens in their record-breaking Super League campaign
By Josh Graham
England captain Sam Tomkins has tipped Jack Welsby to show he belongs on the international stage at the Rugby League World Cup after a stellar season for St Helens.
Welsby, 21, starred mainly at half-back for Saints as they won a record-breaking fourth consecutive Super League title with a 24-12 triumph over Leeds Rhinos in last month’s Grand Final.
In the absence of the rested Tomkins, the versatile youngster excelled at full-back in England’s convincing 50-0 warm-up win over Fiji on Friday - a performance which should be enough to force his way into Shaun Wane’s 17 for Saturday’s hotly-anticipated opener against Samoa.
Tomkins, 33, said: “I thought he was brilliant [against Fiji], I think this World Cup is a massive opportunity for Jack.
“He has proven that he is a star player in Super League and I’d love Jack to go out and show the rest of the world exactly what he can do.
“There is no better stage to do it than the World Cup and I think Jack, although he is young, he has clearly got everything it takes to be a top, top rugby league player and he is fast on his way to becoming that.”
Tomkins will reclaim the No.1 shirt at St James’ Park this weekend, leaving Wane a dilemma over whether to partner Welsby or Salford’s Marc Sneyd with George Williams in the halves.
Far from a Jack of all trades but master of none, Catalan Dragons’ Tomkins believes Welsby’s best quality is his ability to excel in every position he has been tried in at domestic level, having featured at both centre and wing in recent times.
“I think he is the next English star for me,” added Tomkins, who himself burst onto the scene in 2009.
“He is a nice lad and he has also played at centre and about five positions and he doesn’t just go and fill in, he goes in as the best in that position.
“He’s a real natural rugby league player and I think he’s going to go on to really special things.”
Samoa’s influx of NRL Grand Finalists, Matt Parish can call upon eight, has seemingly tipped the scales in favour of the Pacific Islanders in the eyes of many but Tomkins is undeterred, safe in the knowledge that whichever 17 is selected will do the country proud this weekend.
Wane, who names his team on Thursday, is weighing up which two wingers to select from Dom Young, Ryan Hall and Tommy Makinson while there is plenty of competition for places in the forwards, seen as England’s strength, with one injury worry lingering over back row Mike McMeeken.
"I'm very excited. I can't wait to get started with the game on Saturday."
?????? Hear from #EnglandRL head coach Shaun Wane as he looks ahead to the opening @RLWC2021 match against @RLSamoa on Saturday...
— England Rugby League (@England_RL) October 12, 2022
“They are headaches for Shaun but that is exactly what he wants, what we want. We know that whatever 17 we put out there is going to be a solid side,” said Tomkins.
Tomkins knows it is realistically his last chance at World Cup glory having suffered late semi-final heartbreak against New Zealand at Wembley in 2013 before being omitted by former coach Wayne Bennett in 2017.
However, he is under no illusions about the task in hand with more countries than ever before capable of going deep into the tournament after many high-profile stars chose to represent their heritage ahead of turning out for Australia and New Zealand.
“To be successful in that shirt is always the main goal. There's no bigger rugby league competition than the World Cup is there? So it's a tough task,” explained Tomkins.
“Obviously, we're not favourites, there are some teams that will be favourites in front of us. But we've got a great group of players that are going to be desperate to go and do something special.”
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets