Tomkins: 'They'll want Sam to fail'
He has been to the other side and returned and dual England international Joel Tomkins has warned outgoing Rabbitoh Sam Burgess that not everyone involved in English rugby is hoping to see him succeed.
Burgess's announcement in February that he was leaving South Sydney two years before the end of his current contract to pursue an opportunity to play rugby with Bath back in England rocked Redfern in the same manner that Jarryd Hayne's public NFL pledge perplexed Parramatta.
Having quit glamour Super League club Wigan at the end of the 2011 season to link with rugby union club Saracens and subsequently earn three Test caps with England, Tomkins returned to Wigan in June and earned his place in Steve McNamara's squad for the Four Nations tournament starting next Saturday in Brisbane.
Like Burgess intends to do, Tomkins went from the back row in rugby league to play predominantly in the centres in rugby union and warned the Rabbitohs' grand final hero that there may be a few scuff marks on the welcome mat awaiting him.
"If anybody can do it, he can. He's a different level to what I was when I went over [to rugby union] but he's going to go over there with a lot of pressure on his shoulders," Tomkins told NRL.com.
"There are people in rugby union who'll want him to fail – anti rugby league the same as what we get in rugby league with people who are anti rugby union – but I think it's going to be a great challenge for him.
"The World Cup next year is probably his big goal and that will be a massive challenge. If he can get into that that would be an amazing achievement but I think if they play him at 12 (inside centre) he's got all the attributes. He's obviously big enough and strong enough and if he can get to grips with the technical side of it I think he could be playing for England in the World Cup.
"It's a very technical game and the technical side of it, the rucks and just making it an instinct rather than having to think all the time and not over-thinking things. It's just playing enough games to make things come naturally and it's a very technical game so that makes it very difficult."
The defection of Burgess to rugby union is not the only news from the NRL to grab the touring English squad's attention with their mobile phones bringing them the news of Jarryd Hayne's NFL dream upon landing in Brisbane on Thursday.
In an age where more and more athletes appear willing to see whether their skills transfer from one sport to another, Tomkins said that the success – or otherwise – of Hayne may influence the career paths of other players.
"Everybody's quite interested and intrigued by it. It's not something that anybody has ever heard of before so it's quite intriguing to see how he goes," said the 27-year-old older brother of Warriors fullback Sam Tomkins. "I think there'll be a few people having a look and if he goes well they might fancy a crack at it as well.
"It's a brave decision from him if that's what he's wanted to do for a long time. He's obviously got an insurance policy that he can come back to the NRL if it doesn't quite work out but it's still a massive step for him. It's going to be a massive challenge to go and try something completely different.
"I hope he goes over there and does really well, he might open the floodgates for some more league players to go over and do the same. I think everybody will be watching eagerly to see how he gets on."
Although happy to be reunited with his first sporting love, Tomkins does believe that he returns to the England team for the first time in more than three years a more complete player than when he left.
The inclusion of Tomkins further bolsters an England forward pack already bursting at the seams and says he hopes to mentor some of the younger members of the squad.
"I'm a different player I suppose. It's taken a bit of time to get up to the levels that I was at before but I think in time you gain different skills and you learn different ways to play the game.
"Obviously in rugby you've got to work a lot more on your passing game and things like that, I've probably got more of a passing range and hopefully I can just pick up where I left off and show Steve how grateful I am to be here by playing some good rugby league.
"It was a surprise for me when I was selected. I spoke to Steve and he said that he thought I could bring something to the team and my experiences over the last few years, he took that as a positive, that I could come back into the squad and help out some of these young boys."