'It's the pinnacle': Retiring Tomkins' international career may not yet be finished
England captain Sam Tomkins is still hoping to add to his tally of 29 international appearances in the upcoming clash with France, despite announcing his decision to retire from playing at the end of the season.
Tomkins, who joined Catalans Dragons in 2019, announced his retirement in French during an interview on Sky UK before the club’s March 9 defeat of Wigan.
The star fullback, who will turn 34 on March 23, will remain in France after his 16th professional season, joining the Dragons staff in a generic role that will develop over coming years.
"When I made the decision to come to the Dragons in 2018, I had two young children,” Tomkins said. “I saw it as an opportunity to play for a great club while my family could experience a new culture
“Since then I have had two more children during my time in France and this feels like home for us now.
"From day one at the club we felt very welcome, and I knew the club was going in the right direction.
“I would love to continue my career on the field with this team but after 15 years of full-time rugby it’s time to call an end to my playing career at the end of the 2023 season.”
Tomkins led England during the World Cup (Getty Images)
After making his international debut in 2009, Tomkins was a mainstay of the England team until 2014 but made just two more appearances before last year’s World Cup.
England coach Shaun Wane, who has a close relationship with Tomkins from their time together at Wigan, chose him as captain for the World Cup and the pair may again re-unite for the April 29 clash with France at Warrington.
While Wane and Tomkins are yet to discuss his international future, the two-times Man of Steel recently said he wanted to represent England until no longer selected and is understood to be keen to play against France.
“I’ll never retire from international rugby league,” Tomkins told England's The Mirror newspaper. “I’ll never just play club and not country.
“If I’m good enough to be selected, I’ll always put my hand up to play for England. It’s the proudest moment of my career playing for England. It’s the pinnacle so I’ll never pack it in.”
Tomkins thanks the fans after England's semi-final loss to Samoa (Getty Images)
A knee injury has sidelined Tomkins from the opening Super League rounds but he is due back in coming weeks.
After his retirement, Tomkins will be involved in the recruitment process for Catalans and he will help the Dragons in a marketing and ambassador capacity, by attending meetings and functions for the club.
Tomkins will also help the coaching staff with position specific training and skills. He will also have a vital role in educating the Dragons young fulltime players and ensuring the strong club culture evolves.
Having progressed through the Wigan youth development system, Tomkins won three Super League Grand Finals, two Challenge Cup Finals and two League Leaders Trophies with the Cherry and Whites.
Named Super League's Young Player of the Year in 2009 and 2010, he then featured in five successive Super League Dream Team’s and was the 2012 Man of Steel. Tomkins scored 158 tries in 186 games for Wigan.
He left his hometown club to join the New Zealand Warriors in 2014, scoring 14 tries in 37 NRL games before returning to Wigan after two seasons.
He joined the Dragons in 2019. Named in the 2021 Dream Team, he again received the Man of Steel award and won the League Leaders Shield with the club.
Tomkins scored 28 tries and 382 points in 83 games with the Dragons since his arrival at the club.
"I have loved every moment of living out my childhood dream of being a rugby player,” Tomkins said.
"It’s been an honour to play for three great clubs, firstly playing for my hometown club of Wigan Warriors where I was given the opportunity and guidance to work through the reserve grades before becoming a regular Super League player.
“Secondly, the NZ Warriors for a great experience in the NRL, where I grew as a player and person alike and lastly the Dragons, where I have been able to play my part as a leader in a club going from strength to strength over the last four years.
"A sportsman’s career is full of ups and downs, from winning trophies to the inevitable injuries. I am lucky that the high points of my career have far outweighed any low points.
“Although my time on the field is coming to an end, I will remain with the club in a new role.
"The Dragons remain an ambitious club. Having cemented their place as a leading Super League team there is a genuine desire to develop the club both on and off the field.
“I am delighted that I will be a part of that process and hope that I can contribute positively towards a club that has become a huge part of my life and career."