Rugby League

Sam Tomkins, who waved goodbye to Wigan fans in 2013, will make his return on Friday.

Sam Tomkins prepared for Wigan comeback after gruelling fitness sessions

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Sam Tomkins is ready to make his comeback after withstanding all that Wigan coach Shaun Wane could throw at him in training.

The 27-year-old England full-back will end a nine-month injury lay-off when he begins his second stint with his home-town club in Friday's Super League top-four clash with Hull at the DW Stadium.

Tomkins had been plagued by knee trouble since March 2015, early in his second season with New Zealand Warriors, and missed England's Test series against the Kiwis in the autumn in order to undergo surgery in which he received a prosthetic posterior cruciate ligament.

He resumed training with Wigan a month ago and got the nod to make his eagerly-awaited return after being put through a rigorous training session.

"I had three players flying into him and attacking him from everywhere for 20 minutes ," Wane told a press conference at the club's training ground at Orrell. "I t was good. I enjoyed it but he hated it."

Forwards Ryan Sutton, Greg Burke and Jack Higginson were given the task of testing Tomkins' ability to stand up to the most ferocious of tackles.

"He loves that physical stuff," Tomkins said. "I didn't enjoy it.

"It was me and Jake Shorrocks, a young lad who's got a similar knee injury, and it was the final tests of our knees, three forwards throwing their bodies into you, two holding you up and one coming in and pinning your knees.

"We both came through with our knees intact and if we can withstand that, we should be alright for a game.

"I don't worry about the first tackle; if you watched our training for the last two weeks, I've been tackled more then than I have been in the last eight years."

Tomkins, the 2012 Man of Steel, scored 144 tries in 152 appearances for Wigan from 2008 to the 2013 Grand Final when he joined the Auckland club for a world record transfer fee thought to be around ?700,000.

However, he opted out of the final year of his three-year deal , citing homesickness, and Wigan swiftly re-signed him for around ?200,000 on a four-year deal.

Tomkins, who became a father during the winter, is relieved to finally get the chance to make his return.

"I'm glad it's finally come to the time to get my boots on and get out there," he said. "I've been thinking about playing for a month.

"I've been training with the boys for three or four weeks now. I started out with just a few sessions a week but recently I've been in full training and I feel good. It's been tough to not put my hand up and ask to play but you've got to respect the timeframe after the operation.

"The first few months were very tough. When I signed back last year, I didn't think I'd be sat on the sidelines for the first 12 games so that was hard for me."

Wane says Tomkins is likely to start on the bench - for the first time since 2009 - and plans for him to play around 50 minutes.

"I've not picked my team but he'll play some part in it," he said. "I'm leaning towards him being on the bench but I'll have a chat with him and see how he comes through before deciding on the team on Wednesday.

"It means everything to have him back - he's one of the best players in the world but I'm expecting nothing from him on Friday. It's like a pre-season game for him.

"He came round to my house for tea last night and I told him I expect nothing. The fans will expect a lot but in reality it's his first match for a long time. He's going to be a great asset long-term but I need to give him time to bed back in.

"He's not going be rushed by anyone at this club."

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