December 6 2013 Latest news:
By James Cunliffe
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Saracens’ Alex Goode has hailed the impact of his team-mate Joel Tomkins since he crossed codes, with the uncapped centre looking likely to make his England debut against Australia next weekend.
A rugby league star for Wigan Warriors as recently as November 2011, Tomkins has been imperious in midfield for Saracens this term, guiding the Hendon side to the an unbeaten league start of five wins out of five.
Now the 26-year-old is being tipped to line up inside his Saracens clubmate Chris Ashton – who also previously played for Wigan in Rugby League – for next week’s first autumn international.
And a bow against the Wallabies would be fully deserved, according to his Sarries and England colleague Goode.
“I think he’s been brilliant, the way he’s adapted to a completely different game,” the full-back said. “We think it has very similar intricacies [to Rugby League], but the ruck and the speed of the [Union] game are very different.
“It’s a credit to him with the hard work he’s put in and the way he’s studied the game. I think he’ll be brilliant if he gets a chance [for England]. He’s been great for Saracens, done some great things and he’s really helped our attack.
“We’ve learnt a few things off him and we are learning to work with him really well. I can only speak of my personal relationship with him, but I’ve really enjoyed playing with him and running off him so I think he’ll be great. He’s a great character.”
Last week’s signing of Argentina international centre Marcelo Bosch looks a timely one with Tomkins in the England ranks, Brad Barritt injured and Duncan Taylor called into the Scotland squad, along with Kelly Brown.
The experienced 29-year-old recruit was an unused replacement as Sarries lost 17-16 to Toulouse at Wembley Stadium in their Heineken Cup pool last Friday night, but he could make his debut against Northampton on Saturday.
“I think he’s brilliant,” said Goode. “From watching the Rugby Championship, and having seen him for a few years when we’ve played against Biarritz, he’s a quality player and it’s only been further enhanced by the way he’s trained in the last week or so.
“He’s a lovely guy to have around and when he’s given the chance I think he’ll be fantastic for the squad. I thought he was phenomenal in the last two [international] games against Australia and New Zealand, in a battling side.
“He’s technically very good defensively. He’s got great hands, he’s got great footwork, he reads the game well, kicks well – he’s just an all-round good player that a great back line needs.”
While Goode was named in the England training squad, he was part of a 10-strong group that was released from the national set-up on Tuesday, returning to Premiership action this weekend as part of the Elite Performance Squad agreement.
While national head coach Stuart Lancaster has not ruled out any of the group from his plans for the autumn internationals it does appear that Harlequins’ Mike Brown is top of the Red Rose reckoning for the number 15 shirt.
Goode, who recently returned from shoulder reconstruction surgery which saw him miss the summer tour to Argentina, will now do battle this weekend with fellow England full-back hopeful Ben Foden as Sarries travel to Northampton for a top-of-the-table clash.
“We’ve got a good record against them, barring the [Premiership] semi-final last year,” Goode said.
“We pride ourselves on the way we play, and they’re playing well, so it will be a very tough game.”
Sarcens will be without Owen Farrell, Billy and Mako Vunipola, Tomkins, Ashton, Taylor and Brown who have remained with their countries.
Director of rugby Mark McCall announced on Friday that back row Will Fraser is available again after missing the Toulouse defeat, having pinched a nerve related to his recent shoulder surgery during the Heineken Cup win against Connacht.
But loosehead prop Rhys Gill announced on Twitter this week that he is set to go under the knife today for shoulder reconstruction surgery that will keep him out until the New Year.