Joel moves closer to RU switch

Joel Tomkins

Joel Tomkins

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JOEL Tomkins has taken a step closer to moving to rugby union.

The centre has decided to make the switch and has even agreed contract terms with Saracens, the Evening Post understands.

He will leave his home-town club as soon as the two clubs reach an agreement over compensation.

A formal offer from the Premiership outfit – coached by legend Andy Farrell – is expected in the next few days.

Tomkins has four years to run on the improved Warriors contract he only signed at the start of this year. And given his stature in the game, the Challenge Cup winners will feel a sizeable transfer fee is fair.

The academy-product made his mark on the Test stage last year and earned a place in the Super League DreamTeam.

This season he switched to centre, and underlined his pace and power with a scorching try in the Challenge Cup Final.

Just four weeks after his Wembley heroics, Tomkins signed a contract with James Grant Sports Management in a move that saw his agent, Andy Clarke, become a consultant for the London-based firm.

Another of James Grant’s clients, Chris Ashton, is a close friend of Tomkins.

Ashton’s profile – and income – have rocketed since he left Wigan for union.

Chairman Ian Lenagan has refused to comment on Tomkins’ link to Saracens since the Evening Post broke the story last week, other than to hose down the threat of a player-drain.

“I’m not worried about rugby union,” said Lenagan.

“It irritates me that they are able to pay more to get players, but look at the phenomenal losses they are making. If I was an owner losing millions of pounds I’d be concerned.

“They are in a mess financially and we are stronger than that.”

New coach Shaun Wane is keeping tight-lipped, while Tomkins did not return a call yesterday.

The 24-year-old made himself unavailable for England’s Four Nations campaign as he waits for his future to be clarified.

His younger brother Sam has also been linked with Saracens, and while he has publicly stated his intention to remain in league, he admits a move to the 15-a-side code may be an option in the future. Joel Tomkins’ likely exit will follow those of Ryan Hoffman, Andy Coley, Paul Deacon, Ben Cross, Karl Pryce and Eamon O’Carroll from last season’s squad.

Wigan will hope to offset those departures with new arrivals Epalahame Lauaki (Hull FC) and Crusaders trio Gareth Thomas, Ben Flower and Gil Dudson, captures that may be confirmed within the next few days.

Warriors’ new assistant coach, Iestyn Harris, will name his Wales Four Nations squad later today.

All three of Wigan’s new Welsh contingent are expected to be included.