Joel Tomkins switches codes to join Saracens

 

Saracens today confirmed the signing of England rugby league international Joel Tomkins, but will have to wait at least three years before having the chance to get their hands on his younger brother.

The Aviva Premiership champions, who have paid £250,000 to secure the release of Joel from the four years left on his Wigan contract, were also linked with the 22-year-old Sam, whose capture would be an even bigger prize.

However, Wigan today softened the blow of losing Joel by handing Sam a new five-year contract and making him the highest-paid player in rugby league.

The England full-back had, like his older brother, signed a new five-year deal at the start of the 2011 season and today extended that by another 12 months to the end of 2016, with a cast-iron commitment to see out a minimum of three years.

The Super League club and Saracens, who are coached by former Wigan captain Andy Farrell, also unveiled a partnership which will feature at least one cross-code match within the next 12 months and could eventually lead to player exchanges.

Joel Tomkins, 24, who withdrew from England's Four Nations squad to pave the way for his cross-code switch, will link up with Saracens when he returns from a holiday in Lanzarote.

He said: "I will always be a proud Wiganer but everybody in rugby union and rugby league can see there is something very special happening at Saracens and I can't wait to be part of it."

Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan admitted at a press conference that he did not try to dissuade the older Tomkins from making the switch.

"Joel wanted to move to the south of England and to take his opportunity in rugby union," he said.

"Even though we had him on a four-year contract, we never stop players moving elsewhere if they have good reasons.

"And, if you try to keep a player who doesn't really want to be there, he's not going to perform at the highest level. It comes down to compensation and a quarter of a million pounds helps.

"He is joining an excellent club in Saracens. Wigan has grown close with Saracens through these and previous discussions, and we are delighted and excited by the partnership we have announced today.

"I can seen a great deal in sports science to be gained from both clubs working together.

"First of all it's a backroom linkage but certainly in the next 12 months we'll play Saracens at a mixed rule game and I think in time we may well see a swapping of players."

Saracens chairman Nigel Wray said: "Wigan are a fantastic rugby club with a fantastic worldwide reputation and we are really excited by the potential of this partnership as we share resources and knowledge to ensure each club is able to maximise its potential on and off the field."

Meanwhile, Lenagan revealed Wigan have taken advantage of amendments to the Super League salary cap to help keep Sam Tomkins in the game.

The Rugby Football League are sticking with a £1.7million ceiling but clubs are to be given permission to make allowances for long-serving, marquee and home-grown players in an effort to prevent a drain of talent to Australia and the 15-man code.

It means Sam Tomkins is guaranteed to be a part of England's 2013 World Cup team.

"Sam enjoys rugby league and he wants to be paid at the level he ought to be paid for a player of his calibre," Lenagan added.

"He becomes far and away the highest paid player in rugby league.

"His package puts him alongside and in front of many other quite famous rugby union players, whether they are ex-Wigan or wherever they are.

"He is entitled to be paid what he is worth. He is in my opinion going to be the best player on the planet, rugby union or rugby league.

"There is no question of Sam going anywhere for the next three years at least but eventually, rather like Jason Robinson, when he has won everything three times over, there is always the possibility of the NRL or rugby union."

Sam Tomkins insisted he had not received an offer from Saracens but was happy to commit his future to his home-town club.

"I've spent the last few weeks talking with Ian and made it clear that I want to play for Wigan and no one else," he told today's press conference.

"I think the club is in a good place at the moment and I just wanted to give my full commitment to Wigan."

PA

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