Wigan blast Catalans Dragons as Sam Tomkins exit confirmed

Rugby League
Sam Tomkins
Sam Tomkins

Sam Tomkins says the ambition of Catalans Dragons was a key factor in his decision to leave Wigan for a second time.

Although the French club are currently bottom of the Betfred Super League, Tomkins is clearly confident they will not face another battle against relegation after being forced to fight for their survival in the Million Pound Game last September.

The 29-year-old former England full-back has signed a three-year contract from 2019, with an option for a fourth season in Perpignan.

Tomkins, who won 23 caps with England, says the chance to link up with former England coach Steve McNamara was a factor behind his decision to leave his home-town club for a second time.

The former New Zealand Warrior, who will also link up with former Wigan team-mates Michael McIlorum and Lewis Tierney in Perpignan, said: "After speaking with Catalans, it was clear the club has big ambitions for the future and I want to be part of that.

"I have worked with Steve for five years at international level and I am looking forward to working with him again.

"I have good friends already playing at the club in Micky and Lewis and they speak very highly of the club, players and staff so I know I'm in good hands."

McNamara said: "In signing Sam, we have acquired an outstanding leader, decision maker and fierce competitor.

"His desire to join the Catalans Dragons and to be part of our future ambitions was very impressive from the outset.

"He has and continues to excel at every level of our sport, he is a proven winner with an incredible work ethic and will have a huge influence over both our team and club."

Tomkins has scored 158 tries in 186 appearances in his two spells with Wigan, for whom he has won three Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups and two League Leaders' Shields.

Catalans chief executive Christophe Jouffret said: "The club is moving forward and in signing one of the best players in the Super League history, we are making a statement of intent.

"His desire to join our club has found an echo in our wish to add to our squad a new outstanding and talented player."

Wigan had earlier confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in rugby league by announcing their decision not to take up an option in Tomkins' contract for 2019 but they also fired a parting shot to the Catalans with executive director Kris Radlinski accusing them of approaching the player before the anti-tampering deadline of May 1.

"It came as a surprise to us that another club had engaged with Sam so early in the year when the deadline for approaching a player under contract is at the end of April," Radlinski said.

"We have made our feelings known about this to the club involved."

Radlinski added: "Wigan had an option on Sam's contract to keep him as one of our marquee players for 2019.

"After a great deal of consideration, taking all of the factors into account and following an open and honest conversation with Sam, the club felt that the option salary set when Sam returned from New Zealand was too high and opted instead to offer a substantial new four-year deal in its place.

"This new deal was still one of the top three contracts that the club has offered anyone in the past 10 years and was as a marquee player still.

"Sam subsequently told us that the opportunity for him and his family to experience a different culture and lifestyle and to see his kids speaking another language was something that really appealed to him.

"In situations like this, there is nothing that the club can do other than be generous, fair and wish the player well."

Wigan have a ready-made replacement in former Catalans utility player Morgan Escare and are thought to have lined up a move for former Leeds and Castleford full-back Zak Hardaker, whose 14-month drugs ban ends in November.

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