England pin hopes on rookie halves - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

England pin hopes on rookie halves

By Steve Jancetic 13/11/2009 02:29:41 PM Comments (0)

England coach Tony Smith admits the halves combination he will put out for Saturday night's Four Nations final is not one he imagined naming before the start of the tournament.

Hardly surprising considering neither Sam Tomkins or Kyle Eastmond were in first grade at the start of the year.

Twenty-year-old playmakers Tomkins and Eastmond will go head to head with Australia's veteran pair of Darren Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston at Elland Road, the call-up completing a remarkable journey that seemed nigh on impossible for the pair ten months ago.

Back then they were just a couple of young pups trying to break into the Super League competition, but they now find themselves entrusted with leading England to glory.

"Despite what anybody thinks, it would have been a game person that would have said before this tournament that the combination of Eastmond and Tomkins was going to work," Smith said.

"We all wanted that, or thought it could be a possibility, but let's be fair, sometimes you've got to try them out and if they take their chance you say you've got it right and if they have an off day you say "oh, well, lets look at different combinations"."

That's exactly what happened after the last meeting with Australia almost two weeks ago, when England five-eighth Danny McGuire turned in an insipid display before being hooked with 20 minutes remaining.

Smith then went with Tomkins and Eastmond, who spent much of the year playing centre with Sean Long firmly entrenched in the No.7 at St Helens, in the must-win game against New Zealand last weekend, and the makeshift pair came up trumps.

"I admire both of them ... these two have taken their chance and that's something that they should be proud of because they've been given a chance and they've grabbed it," Smith said.

"That reflects how they've been at their respective clubs this year, when they've been given a chance they've looked comfortable and they've stood out."

So much so that St Helens have decided to build their future around Eastmond, with Long having been pensioned off to Hull next season.

Eastmond admitted thoughts of an England jumper were the furthest thing from his mind before the squad was announced, but now hopes a win over Australia on Saturday will be the start of a long-term reign in the national side.

"At no point did I think I'm going to get picked for England," Eastmond said.

"I finished the (Super League) grand final on the Saturday and got the call on the Sunday and it was massive."

Eastmond also revealed that his combination with Wigan half Tomkins is not as thrown together as it appears to be, with the duo having spent plenty of time playing with and against each other in junior sides, though he admits he didn't expect the partnership would be reunited together so soon.

"At the start of the year Sam was playing reserves and I was injured then playing reserves, it's a big turnaround to get to this stage now," Eastmond said.

"We played academies and the like coming through, probably from when we were about 12 or 13," Eastmond said.

"I played against him a few times and played with him in academy sides so I know his game a little bit, it's not completely new."

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