Tomkins heading Down Under
Wigan have announced that England full-back Sam Tomkins is to leave the club at the end of the year to move to Australia's National Rugby League.
The Warriors confirmed one of rugby league's worst-kept secrets at a press conference at the DW Stadium on Monday afternoon when they revealed the reigning Man of Steel has signed a three-year deal with New Zealand Warriors.
Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan said the Super League club have secured a world-record transfer fee, eclipsing the £450,000 Wigan paid Bradford for Stuart Fielden in 2007, for the 24-year-old.
"While we are reluctant to let Sam go, he goes with our blessing," Lenagan told the press conference.
Wigan unveiled North Queensland Cowboys full-back Matty Bowen as a straight replacement on a 12-month contract, with an option for a second season, and revealed they have secured an option to re-sign Tomkins after his spell in Auckland.
Bowen, 31, is seen as a stop-gap signing to give Wigan's crop of promising outside backs like Ryan Hampshire and Lewis Tierney another 12 months to continue their development.
Bowen, who has been a big crowd-pleaser in the NRL, was not offered a new contract by the Cowboys but medical checks have convinced Wigan that his knees can withstand a swansong season in England.
"As we lose one special full-back, we ring in another special full-back," Lenagan said. "He's a superb man in terms of helping young players develop."
Tomkins will be the latest of a growing band of leading players to quit Super League for the NRL.
His Wigan team-mate Lee Mossop is moving to Parramatta from 2014, joining fellow England internationals Sam Burgess and James Graham in Sydney.
It is thought Wigan have received a transfer fee of around £700,000 for Tomkins, who had three years left to run on his contract.
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