Tomkins named in Warriors squad for Auckland Nines

Sam Tomkins is expected to be a hit playing for the Warriors in the Auckland Nines / Dean Purcell
Sam Tomkins is expected to be a hit playing for the Warriors in the Auckland Nines / Dean Purcell

Fans will get a chance to see Sam Tomkins in a Warriors jersey for the first time when he lines up at next month's Auckland Nines.

The England fullback, who has joined the Warriors on a big-money, three-year deal, seems suited to the nines games with its fast pace and extra space. He scored 144 tries in 151 games for Wigan and in 2012 was judged the UK Super League's best player.

Tomkins will be joined in the Warriors' nines squad by the likes of Shaun Johnson, who first came to prominence as a touch player, Konrad Hurrell, Ngani Laumape, Glen Fisiiahi, Carlos Tuimavave, Sione Lousi, Dominique Peyroux, Suaia Matagi and fellow new recruit Jayson Bukuya.

The Warriors have been installed as favourites for the inaugural competition, which will be played at Eden Park on February 15 and 16, but no one really knows which teams and what formula will be successful given the newness of the competition.

With $2.6 million in prizemoney up for grabs, and rules around the makeup of sides (each club must include one of their top-five earners as well as 12 of their top 25 in their 16-man squad), it should be competitive. It has captured the imagination of the public, with a further 1600 tickets due to go on sale on Tuesday after the event sold out on Friday - it is the first time Eden Park has sold out for a non-All Blacks test match since the 1992 Cricket World Cup.

The Warriors have included nine backs and seven forwards in their squad with an obvious accent on speed, power and ball-playing ability.

They will be without Manu Vatuvei, Kevin Locke and Thomas Leuluai, who are all working their way back to full fitness after picking up injuries at last year's World Cup, and are also missing captain Simon Mannering (rested), second-rower Feleti Mateo (knee) and hooker Nathan Friend.

The Warriors are also preparing for the upcoming NRL season and play three trial games in and around the nines.

"We've got trials going on at the same time so picking the squad was a challenge but we're taking the nines very seriously,'' said Warriors assistant Ricky Henry, who will coach the team. ``We wanted to put a strong squad together and we've been able to do that with a group of players who'll give us plenty of skill and pace.''

Henry has consulted New Zealand rugby sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens and former sevens specialist Karl Te Nana for some tips and had also researched the World Nines won by the Kiwis in 1996 and 1997.

Among that team then were Stacey Jones and Ruben Wiki, who will both assist Henry for the nines _ Jones will be assistant coach and Wiki a trainer.

Tomkins is one of seven players included in the Warriors' squad who were involved in last year's World Cup.

"It's a great concept, the fans are getting right behind it with loads of tickets sold and the boys here are really excited about it, like I am,'' he said. "We've got a great team with a lot of speed, players like Tui [Lolohea] who has electric feet. It's going to be brilliant.''

The Warriors have opted to field some big men, in front-rowers Matagi, Sebastine Ikahihifo and Charlie Gubb and it will be interesting to see how they cope in the fast-paced game.

"I've been training hard for this but I'm a bit nervous about it,'' Gubb said. "I wouldn't want to get caught one on one with someone like Michael Jennings.''

The Warriors have been drawn in the same pool as the Raiders, Sea Eagles and Cowboys and need to finish in the top two in their group to progress to the quarter-finals. Games are played over two nine-minute halves.

Warriors squad to play in the Auckland Nines at Eden Park, Auckland, on February 15 and 16: Jayson Bukuya, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Glen Fisiiahi, David Fusitua, Charlie Gubb, Konrad Hurrell, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Shaun Johnson, Solomone Kata, Ngani Laumape, Tuimoala Lolohea, Sione Lousi, Suaia Matagi, Dominique Peyroux, Sam Tomkins, Carlos Tuimavave.

- APNZ

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