By Ian Laybourn
2:34am Mon 25th November, 2013
Sam Tomkins says he will leave English rugby league in good hands but believes the national team needs more regular competition against Australia and New Zealand if they are to get their hands on the World Cup again.
England's heartbreaking 20-18 defeat by the Kiwis in Saturday's World Cup semi-final at Wembley ended Tomkins' career in England as he prepares to take up a three-year NRL contract in New Zealand with the Warriors.
Steve McNamara's men saved their best for last but victory was snatched away 21 seconds from the end when Kiwi halfback Shaun Johnson scored in the last play of a pulsating match.
"I'm absolutely devastated," the 24-year-old fullback Tomkins said. "To lose in the dying seconds like that is absolutely gutting. That's sport - sometimes it doesn't quite go your way. I've been in games where we've won them like that as well. As gutted as I am, I think this group will be stronger for it."
Tomkins, whose next international will be in the 2014 Four Nations Series in Australia, thinks it is no coincidence that England's best World Cup performances came against the holders at Wembley and tournament favourites Australia in the opening game.
"We need to look at games like this and realise England need to be playing internationals against the best in the world. We need more tough tests; we are only going to get better that way. The Aussies and Kiwis are playing each other mid-season ..."
"We're not as consistent as we can be or should be but, in big games, we've proved that we can compete ... on Saturday, it was literally the last seconds. It could have gone either way. It could have been us jumping and screaming at the end."
The International Federation will be updated this week on a South African bid and the joint application from Australia and New Zealand to host the 2017 World Cup, with a decision due in February.
In the meantime, Tomkins is starting to get his head around becoming teammates with a host of players who were his bitter enemies on Saturday.
While New Zealand prepare to meet Australia for the third final in a row at Old Trafford on Saturday, England's wait to add to their last World Cup triumph in 1972 goes on.
I'm ploughing through the hundreds of comments on the game from fans on the Guardian website, and this struck a chord with me:
"..., but where we really probably lost it was in not taking advantage of several really good opportunities in the opposition 20 when attacking NZ's weak left edge. I counted five half-chances in that area. Watkins scored one try, but on another occasion he passed too early, on another he held on because Charnley was stood in front of him. Tomkins held on once blowing an overlap, and lastly Charnley backed himself in a one-on-one and lost. They were none of them terrible errors, but can't help feeling Inglis/Hayne/Morris would have scored 3 or 4 of them, which is why I currently can't see NZ winning next week."
I do remember those incidents. Charnley didn't have a great game. Presumably Manu will be back and Goodwin dropped for the Final?
But the entire NRL knows to kick the ball just behind Manu to get past him. He has the turning circle of the RMS Queen Mary 2.
He's useful at drawing-in defenders if he's on the attack and, when running with maximum momentum, he takes quite a bit of stopping but otherwise, the left edge could be wide open whether Goodwin or Vatuvei is wearing number 5.