SAM TOMKINS is an injury doubt for England’s Test match against France at Leigh on Saturday.
England head coach Steve McNamara has revealed the full-back is still troubled by the knee problem that sidelined him during New Zealand Warriors’ season and eventually brought his NRL career to a premature end.
Tomkins, who cut short his stint in Auckland to rejoin home-town club Wigan for the 2016 season, trained on his own at England’s new base at the FA’s training camp at Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire.
It is almost two months since Tomkins’s last match, but McNamara insists he will not rush the player back, although he remains confident he will be fit for the start of the three-match Test series against New Zealand, which gets under way in Hull on Sunday week.
“Sam has had an issue from the NRL season,” said McNamara in his first press conference since returning from his job as assistant coach of Sydney Roosters 12 days ago.
“If Sam’s fit he will be considered, if he’s not we’ll get him right for the week after.
“He’s a strong chance of playing this week. We’ll probably know a little bit more after another session (today).
“It’s the same injury he had when he was at the Warriors.
“He needed a fair bit of attention when he came back, which he’s been getting. We’ll continue to monitor that but I can’t see there being any problems moving forward.”
England captain Sean O’Loughlin also sat out yesterday’s contact session at the 330-acre training park but, like Tomkins, has not yet been ruled out of Saturday’s game at Leigh Sports Village.
“We’ve a couple of players we always manage through the week in terms of workload and people at different stages of their careers,” said McNamara.
“Our performance staff are very good, they’re very diligent, and managing the players is a really important part of our programme.
“We’ve Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday field sessions this week and Sean trained really well (on Monday). It was deemed best for him to do alternative training (yesterday), which was about contact and real physicality.
“It wasn’t about shapes of running defensive patterns, so it was an opportunity for Sean to recover from Monday’s session.
“Obviously with Sam, we’re protective of his knee in terms of getting done what he needs to get done to give him the best chance of playing this weekend.
“At the minute, he’s doing what’s right for his body.
“It’s important when he’s fit, he’s fully fit. That’s most important for me. When you’ve got a fully-fit Sam Tomkins, you’ve got a pretty special player on your hands.
“We’re pretty close to that happening.”
McNamara will announce his 19-man squad for the French game today and says the nine Grand Finalists from Leeds and Wigan will be available.
The coach insists the game against Richard Agar’s France is no warm-up for the games with the Kiwis, who are now the No 1 world-ranked team, but a full-blown Test match and he is expecting a tough game.
“They’re always tough challenges against the French,” said McNamara. “We’ve generally come out on the right side of them and we aim to do that this time around.”
Warrington have paid a £150,000 transfer fee to Hull for loose-forward Joe Westerman.
Westerman, 25, who made his England debut against Samoa in the 2014 Four Nations Series in Brisbane just under 12 months ago, had a year left on his deal with the Black and Whites, but will join team-mate winger Tom Lineham at the Halliwell Jones Stadium for pre-season training.
Westerman, who spent three years with Castleford before joining Hull in 2010, is the Wolves’ sixth recruit for 2016 following the signing of Lineham, Jack Hughes, Kurt Gidley, Mitchell Dodds and Benjamin Jullien (Avignon).
Hull are thought to have rejected Warrington’s initial offer for Westerman, but said they concluded the deal to ensure they retain a significant transfer fee for the player rather than allowing him to leave for nothing in 12 months.
Hull general manager of football, Motu Tony, said: “It allows us a little room to manoeuvre within our salary cap and we remain active in the market so further recruitment is still a possibility.”
Wakefield have signed full-back Sean Morris on a 12-month deal from London Broncos.
The 26-year-old, who can also play centre or wing, began his career at League One club Oxford before going on to have two stints with the Broncos.
Academy graduate Ryan Millar has signed a three-year full-time contract with Sheffield Eagles.