Sam Tomkins has called on English rugby league fans to change their mind and look at the bigger picture – their country.
And the best way to get them to do this is to get the audition side to play more.
Shaun Wane’s men scored a convincing 18-4 victory over the Combined Nations All Stars in the middle of the international season last Saturday – far from traveling to the other side of the world, the strongest opposition they could face.
But listen to the many supporters and watch the crowd of less than 10,000 in Warrington, where five-figure crowds at league games are the norm, and you might be forgiven for thinking, “What’s the point?”
However, Tomkins believes the mentality must change, especially when it comes to the All Stars game ahead of this year’s World Cup, and the 13-man code chiefs could help by bringing England onto the field more regularly.
“The fans do not support England, they support the players of their club,” he admitted. “That’s why the All Stars match has a really weird vibe.
“There is no real atmosphere in these games as if there is someone supporting Warrington, they have supported Daryl Clarke on the All-Stars team and George Williams for England.
“People should stand behind the national team, put aside club loyalties and support your nation. If you’re a foreigner, support all-stars. Go buy a shirt, go and shout at them.”
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“That’s how it should be, that’s how it is in rugby union, that’s how it is in football.
“Rugby League needs to come in and we want people to come out and forget who they support, Wigan, Castleford, Leeds, whoever. They have to be England fans.
“For me, there should be as many games as possible. The biggest honor is to play for your country but the bottom line is we live far from any good international team.
“We wouldn’t be able to go 11,000 miles to play a game once a month.”
England’s victory – and seeing some of the things they didn’t do well – was a huge step on the road to this year’s World Cup.
And Tomkins knows there’s only one way to really change the mindset, and that’s to win it. Which is why All Stars, which many have mocked, is a valid concept.
The 33-year-old added to SunSport: “To make the game grow, we have to be successful. We cannot expect to grow and not win anything.
“The last time we won the World Cup, it was in black and white. We need to be successful, this is on us and it will lead to the development of the sport.
“No one wants to promote and follow a team that doesn’t win titles.
“We would have loved to play with a good team, but the All Stars team was the best and we had to make sure we got the most out of it.
“We didn’t play with Australia, New Zealand, Samoa or Tonga, but we faced 17 good players who wanted to go out and win.
“There will always be 17 good outsiders in the Premier League, and as long as this concept continues they will always be a strong team.”