Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker determined to regain his England place

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LEEDS RHINOS ace Zak Hardaker is determined to be England’s No 1 this year.

Hardaker has pledged to oust Sam Tomkins from the full-back role when England take on New Zealand in a three-Test series at the end of the season. The Rhinos man wasn’t selected for any of England’s matches during last autumn’s Four Nations campaign in Australia and New Zealand, despite being selected in the Super League Dream Team.

Zak Hardaker

Zak Hardaker

Tomkins, the former Wigan full-back now playing for New Zealand Warriors, got the nod instead and Hardaker admitted: “It’s tough, I just wish I’d had a game.

“That’s all I ask for – just a game. I thought I’d played pretty well last year – if you go on my performance and his I’d say I’d had the better year, but obviously him playing in Australia and him being the number one, it’s his shirt isn’t it?

“This year’s my year, though – and I’m really going to give it some so there’ll be no questions asked about whose shirt it should be by the end of 2015.”

Despite aiming for Tomkins’ England jersey, Hardaker reckons his own place at Leeds is under threat – and he is gearing up to play a different style of game this term as Rhinos look to pile on the points.

Teenage full-back Ashton Golding recently signed a long-term contract after being named Rhinos’ academy player of the year in 2014.

He impressed in the Boxing Day win over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Hardaker said: “He has been tearing it up apparently, so I have to watch my back as

he might pinch my shirt!

“We’ve just been doing loads of fitness stuff in training at the moment and the ball skills and the movement and stuff like that will come into it in Florida.

“The ball in my hand is something I definitely want more of and it’s something Mac [coach Brian McDermott] was talking about towards back end of last year.

“We’ve not had proper sit down as a team as this is the first time we’ve all been together.

“When that comes we’ll see, but I reckon there’ll be a few things to change from last year’s play.”

Hardaker is now back in full training after his off-season break and will be jetting to the United States with the rest of the squad tomorrow for a week-long camp.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Hardaker said.

“We’ve got a game over there against the [Jacksonville] Axemen, we come back for a couple of weeks and then it’s Jamie Peacock’s testimonial game.

“Before you know it the season starts again.”