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Sam Tomkins: The talk stops here

Sam Tomkins says now is when players have to prove themselves after pre-season hype
Sam Tomkins says now is when players have to prove themselves after pre-season hype

Rejuvenated Sam Tomkins is hoping Wigan Warriors do all their talking on the pitch as they return to action tonight.

The four-times Super League champions kick off their season against Salford at the AJ Bell Stadium as they look to reclaim their place among the competition’s elite after a disappointing end to 2017.

Due to international duty and injuries, Tomkins hasn’t had the luxury of a full off-season since 2008.

And while he admits time on the training paddock has put him “in a good spot”, he warned every other team will be feeling confident ahead of the start.

“You’re behind the eightball and chasing it,” he said on being used to being thrown in at the deep end.

“It’s basically the same stuff you do for two weeks, you do for three months, so you certainly get some reps in on the field, plenty of strength and I feel in a good spot.”

But he also warned that now is when everyone’s pre-season hype will be put under the microscope.

“We’ve huge potential in the squad but that means nothing,” he said.

“At this time of year every club is saying how good pre-season has been, everyone is saying how they feel and everyone’s saying it’s the best squad they’ve ever had. Everyone’s full of (rubbish).

“And everyone says the same. Every player is saying the same, every coach is saying the same, it means nothing until you get on the field.

“We’ve had a good pre-season but everyone has so we need to make sure we put it into action.”

Tonight’s non-televised clash is a repeat of last season’s opener, which Wigan won 26-16 before going on to beat Cronulla Sharks in the World Club Challenge.

This term, the players hop on a plane less than 24 hours after full-time to take on Hull FC in Wollongong next weekend, and South Sydney in a friendly the following week.

And fans will be watching Tomkins closely – as well as hoping he will rediscover the form which made him Super League’s hottest property, he will also play a different role this term, moving into the halves to make room for Morgan Escare at full-back.

The French livewire is likely to share some full-back duties with Tomkins.

“Attack-wise there’s not a great deal of difference to be honest,” he said on switching positions.

“The way I play at one isn’t too dissimilar to playing six, apart from defending in the line when you’ve got some big bodies running at you but luckily we’ve got plenty of them to run into me over the last few months so I’m ready for that.

“I wouldn’t say it’s like riding a bike, I wasn’t straight back into it but it’s not too bad.”

The 2012 Man of Steel is also likely to be taking-up kicking duties after rugby union kicking coach Charlie Hodgson was brought in during the close season to address the issue.

Wigan’s conversion strike rate has been a sore point for fans since kicking machine Pat Richards left at the end of 2013.

And while Tomkins revealed there has been improvement, he has asked supporters not to expect Frano Botica-like accuracy. from him

“(I’m) the best of a bad bunch,” he joked.

“Charlie has been a massive help. He was one of the best kickers in rugby union and a kicking coach so he’s been able to give us all some input and show us exactly how many areas we were going wrong.

“It’s been good and we’ve all seen some improvements from him being here.

“We’ve got better but don’t be expecting any Owen Farrells.”