Tomkins blasts back into the frame

Joel Tomkins is in line to make his first appearance of the year this Friday.
Joel Tomkins playing against Salford in pre-seasonJoel Tomkins playing against Salford in pre-season
Joel Tomkins playing against Salford in pre-season

The forward has missed the opening seven games of the season with a knee injury.

But he trained yesterday and is on course to give Shaun Wane a huge boost ahead of the first derby of the season.

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Wane confirmed the England international is in the mix to face St Helens at Langtree Park.

He said: “Joel has trained and, providing he is fine through the week, he should be available.”

Tomkins has not played a competitive match this season, missing six Super League games and the World Club Series against Brisbane.

But he did figure in a pre-season friendly at Salford and Wane has no concerns he will be underdone, given he took part in the full off-season programme.

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Indeed, Tomkins was widely praised by team-mates and coaches for being one of the leading players during winter training – his first uninterrupted off-season in several years.

His return would ease Wane’s selection problems, given his senior squad is down to the bare bones.

He had five internationals missing through injury during last Thursday’s 18-12 loss to Widnes – as well as senior prop Dom Crosby.

Willie Isa is also nearing a return to action but is not expected to be fit for Friday.

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And stand-off George Williams is still a doubt with a back injury which has sidelined him for the last two games.

He has not been ruled out, but may not be back in time to face Saints.

If Williams misses out, captain Sean O’Loughlin is expected to continue to operate in the halfback roles alongside Matty Smith.

Tomkins could either take a place in the second-row or a bench spot, with academy-product Nick Gregson shaping as the likeliest to drop out of the frame.

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Dual-code England international Tomkins, 28, has scored 59 tries in 193 games during two spells with Warriors.

He started his career at Wigan and returned in 2014 after a three-year spell in rugby union with Saracens.

Wigan’s away allocation of 4,400 for the derby has sold out.

They also face Hull KR on Easter Monday before hosting Warrington four days later.

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Meanwhile, St Helens are without Atelea Vea from the team beaten 30-18 by Leeds Rhinos last Friday night.

Coach Keiron Cunningham didn’t take his regular media conference yesterday, with assistant Jamahl Lolesi stepping in instead.