Lancaster tips Tomkins to handle the pressure

ENGLAND coach Stuart Lancaster has revealed he had no hesitation in awarding Joel Tomkins his first cap against Australia tomorrow due to the centre’s ability to handle big-game pressure.

The 26-year-old will line up alongside four Saracens team-mates in Chris Ashton – the second most experienced player in the team – and fly-half Owen Farrell, as well as brothers Mako and Billy Vunipola.

Before switching codes two years ago, Tomkins won four caps for England’s rugby league team and played in front of more than 78,000 fans at Wembley in the 2011 Challenge Cup final for Wigan Warriors – reassuring Lancaster that he is ready for the Wallabies.

“We’re 100 per cent confident in Joel and that big-game temperament is the key,” said Lancaster.

“He’s played in big games for Saracens, Wigan and England rugby league and this is the next step for him as a rugby union player.

“It’s a great opportunity for him and we 100 per cent trust him.

“This is the first chance I’ve had to work with him. Obviously he came into the RBS Six Nations camp once or twice and what immediately impresses me is his physicality.

“But it’s his small-talk, understanding of defence and attacking lines that make him a straight pick for us.”

With Alex Corbisiero injured and Dylan Hartley and David Wilson only fit enough to be named as replacements, Mako Vunipola will join Leicester Tigers pair Tom Youngs and Dan Cole in the front row.

Meanwhile, Lancaster explained that his decision to pick Lee Dickson over British and Irish Lion Ben Young at scrum-half was purely based on early-season form.

“Scrum-half is a competitive position but we’ve made an objective assessment of players’ form over the first half of the season and Lee has been ahead,” added the coach.

“He plays quick, brings tempo to the game and his kicking has improved and he’s defensively good. On form he deserves a chance to start.”


15: Mike Brown
14: Chris Ashton
13: Joel Tomkins
12: Billy Twelvetrees
11: Marland Yarde
10: Owen Farrell
9: Lee Dickson
1: Mako Vunipola
2: Tom Youngs
3: Dan Cole
4: Joe Launchbury
5: Courtney Lawes
6: Tom Wood
7: Chris Robshaw
8: Billy Vunipola

15: Israel Folau
14: Adam Ashley-Cooper
13: Tevita Kuridrani
12: Matt Toomua
11: Nick Cummins
10: Quade Cooper
9: Will Genia
1: James Slipper
2: Stephen Moore
3: Ben Alexander
4: Sitaleki Timani
5: James Horwill
6: Scott Fardy
7: Michael Hooper
8: Ben Mowen