The torture will soon be over for Sam Tomkins, after four months of lockdown followed by the longest two weeks of his life serving a two-match suspension.
It will end this week as he prepares to return to Super League action.
The Catalans Dragons fullback is in line to face Salford Red Devils, the club against which he picked up his ban for tripping in his last turnout at Stade Gilbert Brutus in March.
“It’s been the longest ban ever,” Sam told League Express.
“Ben Flower didn’t do this much time.”
The 31-year-old former Wigan Warriors star has settled happily into life in the south of France, renovating his family home and enjoying the beach and the Mediterranean lifestyle, but he says the past four months have been far from idyllic.
“It’s been torture; obviously lockdown has affected everybody, but even when we got back to training it was difficult knowing that I couldn’t take part in the first two matches.
“It’s been massively frustrating and I’m trying to do what I can to help the squad. At least this weekend I’ll get the chance of a run-out against Salford and I can’t wait.”
Tomkins has taken a shine to a young French player at the club who one day could take the shirt off his back.
He said: “I’ve been spending a lot of time with Arthur Mourgue at training, because he’s been taking my position while I’m suspended and I’ve tried to make him as well prepared as possible, because he hasn’t much experience at fullback.
“He’s very talented in terms of his speed and his footwork, but he’s got a little learning to do yet for the fullback role. He’s made it clear he wants to be a halfback, even though I think he’s better suited to number one.
“He’s in a very similar position to when I started my career. I came into the halves and it’s the position I’d had growing up playing the game. Sometimes you can get stuck in the same position without considering others.
“But with his speed I think fullback would be best for him. He’s got the skills of a halfback, good hands and an okay kicking game, but that pace is really good from the back and it’s perfectly suited to linking in with the centres and wings.
“For someone so young, he’s only 21, he’s got great confidence, but he needs game-time and fixtures under his belt so I hope he’s enjoying my ban, because I’m not.
“But seriously, it’s good for him to get this experience; you can only do so much in training, but you learn so much more in a Super League game against seasoned professionals.
“It doesn’t seem two minutes ago when I was in the same position. A career goes very, very quickly, so it’s important to make the right decisions. I remember Trent Barrett telling me that I’d probably end up at fullback and then coach Michael Maguire telling me the same.
“I’d not considered it when I first started out, but these guys know what they’re talking about and it’s important to listen.
“So if I can pass on my experience to the younger players at Catalans, I’m happy. I know what it’s like to get thrown in at the deep end when you’re a young player and it is crucial that you have as much support as possible around you.”
Tomkins says the mood is good in the Dragons’ squad and he has thanked his club chairman Bernard Guasch for digging deep to support the players.
“It’s a really tough time for everyone at the moment financially and players’ attitudes are very different across the boards. Some teams have been treated really fairly and I understand that some haven’t, which is not good for anybody. But speaking on behalf of the Dragons, we’re happy to be back and we want to push on and do something this year. We’re just glad to be back playing the game that we love.”
Tomkins can’t wait to be unleashed against the Red Devils but there’s one fixture that excites him the most – a home game against Leeds Rhinos on September 7th.
He said, “I can’t wait to get back and play at the Brutus. It’s a brilliant place to play when you’re playing well and winning and all the crazy French fans are going mad, the atmosphere is fantastic.
“They deserve to have something to shout about; there’s been no sport here for quite a while and because we’ve had to play in the UK for the whole of August it’s like our fans have had a four-game ban too.
“But they’ve got a lot to look forward to with at least six home games and they might be frustrated at the moment, but they’ll see a lot of rugby this year and I’m looking forward to getting back in front of them.”
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