Zak Hardaker, who will revert to full-back tonight for Leeds in their rearranged Super League match against Widnes, has insisted he will fight for a starting full-back place for England with the autumn World Cup on the horizon.
The 21-year-old put in an accomplished performance filling in at centre in England's 30-10 win over the Exiles at Warrington on Friday, in which he opened the scoring with a try. With Man of Steel Sam Tomkins standing in his way, Hardaker might have been forgiven for pushing instead for an England place in the three-quarter line but said he sees his future at full-back.
"I'll fight for full-back," Hardaker said. "If I get picked in the [England] squad, then I'm a squad player so, if the centre or wing spot needs to be filled because of injuries, then I'm happy to do that.
"But full-back is the position I'm playing at the moment and I'll hopefully do that."
Hardaker is one of six Rhinos players involved in Friday's game who have been named in coach Brian McDermott's 19-man squad for tonight, including England captain Kevin Sinfield, who has not missed a Super League game since August 2010 but went off at half-time in the Exiles victory with a dislocated thumb.
Sinfield is set to have surgery on his thumb tomorrow, which would put him out of action for six weeks, but the club will make a decision early on today whether to play him against Widnes first.
Meanwhile, the England coach, Steve McNamara, will fly to Australia on Wednesday for a three-week whistle-stop trip to check on his NRL-based players before the World Cup. "I always aim to get over to Australia at least once a year to keep up to date with what is happening in the NRL and to meet up with the England players playing in the southern hemisphere," said McNamara.
Batley reached the semi-finals of the Northern Rail Cup after a comprehensive 30-4 victory over Workington, and will travel to face Leigh in the last four after the Centurions overcame Whitehaven 34-18 in the other quarter-final to take place yesterday.
Sheffield and Doncaster will meet in the other semi-final with the matches taking place at the end of the month.
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