Wigan Warriors’ decision to allow star player Sam Tomkins to play rugby union for the Barbarians against Australia at Twickenham has sparked an angry reaction within the rugby league fraternity.
Many high-profile figures within the game have blasted the Wigan club and feel Tomkins will be in the shop window.
Many are dismayed to see the game’s hottest property playing rugby union. Tomkins’ big day out at Twickenham comes just a week after he signed a new contract with Wigan preventing him from speaking to rugby union clubs for the next three years.
Sam’s brother Joel has already quit Wigan and joinedSaracens and he was one year into a five-year deal. Union clubs are desperate to sign Sam and see him fast-tracked into the England set-up.
It’s been claimed a taste of the action will force Sam to want more.
Wigan legend Andy Gregory said: “I really feel for the Wigan fans – they’ve lost Joel and they don’t want to see Sam go. He’ll be in the shop window at Twickenham.
“He should be on a beach in Barbados recovering from the league season.
“I find it strange when people say they’re playing too many games and he is a lad who has never played union now playing in a one-off game where he could be exceptional. Just imagine if Sam sets Twickenham alight – what will be the reaction then?”
Click below to see a video report on Tomkins
Former Wigan skipper Bill Ashurst said: “What’s happening doesn’t surprise me – I’ve been to the circus before – but why are we doing this?
“This game is only a friendly, a joke, a publicity stunt in fact. I doubt we’ll see rugby union players playing international rugby league.”
Former Great Britain star Kevin Ashcroft claims Wigan must need the cash by allowing Tomkins to guest.
He said: “The fans will be going spare and rightly so and Sam could get a first taste, enjoy it and want more.
“He’s the hottest property in world rugby league even if the Aussies wrapped him up like a kipper last week. Only last week there was a hands-off for rugby union with a new contract and now this happens. It begs the question, do Wigan need to sell him?
“This is a big gamble, I hope he’s well insured. Wigan should have blocked it and if anything happens to him the fans will never forgive those who allowed it to happen.”
Tomkins heads for Twickenham with his club’s blessing.
Coach Shaun Wane said: “This is something Sam was keen to do and it will be a great experience for him."
Tomkins, who will play on the wing on Saturday, said: “I’ve been given the opportunity to play and it’s something that I am interested in.”