Sam Tomkins will be England’s most experienced player when they step out in the inaugural Downer World Cup 9s this weekend.
The Catalans fullback featured in the Auckland 9s twice while at New Zealand Warriors, with only Tom Burgess, Jermaine McGillvary and late call-up Blake Austin also having played in the format.
Tomkins says it brings its own unique challenges and it’s not simply about having the quickest players.
“Agile forwards are what make or break it,” Tomkins explained.
“You don’t want anybody too big that can’t get through a lot of work, because it is very physically demanding for the short stint that you’re on
“Looking at our squad, we’ve got plenty of finishers and plenty of big bodies who can put a dint in a team and still carry on.
“There’s not as much space as you think.
“The first time we played Nines we thought it was going to be a lot like Sevens, but it became apparent pretty quickly that you can’t just have fast guys, you’ve got to have some pretty big middles.
“That’s probably reflected in the squad we’ve picked. You’ve got to have some big bodies in there who will need to do a lot of work.”
Tomkins believes the format has the potential to take the sport to new audiences if used correctly.
“You still get the big collisions but you don’t get as much wrestle because you don’t want to commit too many people to a tackle,” he said.
“Whereas in 13-a-side you’re happy to put three or four men in to slow it down, you don’t have that luxury in Nines because that’s half your team.
“It’s played pretty quick; that’s why you can only play nine minutes (per half).
“It’s brilliant, a little different. You see some great tries. It’s brilliant for agile forwards and quick backs to really showcase what they can do.
“It usually takes a game to get to grips with it, but I’m sure we’ll go okay.
“We want to win it – if it was England tiddlywinks we’d still want to win it.
“It’s important to represent the badge in whatever you’re doing.
“We’ll be as serious as we need to be to try and get the win.
“To be the first team to win it would be really good. You want to win whatever the circumstances. We’ll do everything we can.”