Tomkins and McNamara confident England can win Four Nations
England take on Samoa in their first match of the Rugby League Four Nations in the hope they can use it as a springboard to excel against heavyweights Australia and New Zealand. Steve McNamara’s men are heavily odds-on at 1/6 with Coral to complete what is expected to be a fairly routine victory, and have a tempting 13/2 price to win the tournament.
In what has been an impressive season for English players, ex-Wigan full back Sam Tomkins has had his first season down under for the New Zealand Warriors, and will be more than aware of what to expect. However, the 25-year-old maintains that England have everything they need to win.
“We’ve got everything we need to go there and win, it’s down to the players to perform,” said Tomkins, who is 8/1 to open the scoring in his new-found home. “A win in this Four Nations would give English rugby league a boost it needs.”
Despite long term-skipper Kevin Sinfield retiring from international rugby after the World Cup last year, England still have a talented squad, with Matty Smith, Josh Hodgson, Joe Westerman and Daryl Clark set to make their debuts against Samoa.
Clark, 7/4 to score anytime, won the Super League Man of Steel award this season, after helping to steer club Castleford Tigers to the Challenge Cup final, and McNamara insists that debutants of his calibre are exciting.
“There is a slight evolution to the squad this year with some new faces on show,” said McNamara. “The debutants are exciting and they can prove themselves on the international stage.”
The England coach admits that he would have liked more time to gel the squad and test them in match scenarios, though is reassured that they will do a good job. “We have only had nine days in Australia to get ready and overcome a long flight, but we’ve known that from the outset,” he continued.
“But players at this level are very intelligent, you only have to tell them once or twice and they pick things up. Ideally we would have liked to test ourselves in a game situation before going into the tournament and that’s not been the case. But we’re confident.”
With Sinfield’s career in an England jersey over, the privilege has fallen to James Graham, 3/1 to score anytime, to lead the side out, and the former St Helens forward has his coach’s backing, after three seasons playing for NRL side Canterbury Bulldogs.
“He is a great leader and we saw that with the Bulldogs this season in the NRL, where he single-handedly led them to a Grand Final,” added McNamara.
Elsewhere, in the other match, tournament favourites’ Australia take on New Zealand, in what is expected to be a blockbuster clash. The Kangaroos, odds-on at 2/7 for the match, are without star player, and arguably on his day, the best player in the world, full back Billy Slater so step up Greg Inglis who is 7/1 to score first. Cameron Smith is always a handful, and the forward has decent 4/1 odds to cross the whitewash anytime. For the Kiwis, trusty Thomas Leuluai is a 5/1 shot to score anytime, while Gerard Beale is a 12/1 chance in the first scorer market.