Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker’s relishing role with England

England's Zak Hardaker in match action. PIC: PA
England's Zak Hardaker in match action. PIC: PA
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Shooting Star Zak Hardaker insists he is “thrilled” with his England cap – despite being left out of their final two autumn internationals.

The Leeds Rhinos ace caught the eye with a two-try performance on his England debut in the 80-12 rout of Wales, but then had to sit out the rest of the tournament after first-choice full-back Sam Tomkins returned from injury.

Hardaker, who has had just two seasons in Super League after stepping up from Featherstone Rovers, denied being frustrated at having to watch from the sidelines after making such a good start to his international career.

“The squad that went to South Africa for the training camp was really strong, so to get one game – I was really thrilled,” he insisted.

“I was really pleased I got that game.”

Hardaker is emerging as a contender for England’s World Cup 2013 squad and admitted that will be in the back of his mind next year.

“I’ve got a bit off time off now, then I’ll be back into pre-season training with the Rhinos,” he said.

“I’ll be concentrating on my own game for Leeds, but obviously you have to perform well to get into the England team for the end of the year.

“I’ll be trying to do that. I’m just going to focus on Leeds and hopefully I can play well enough over the year to get picked for England at the end.”

Hardaker, pictured right, feels the decision to spend 10 days at a high-altitude training base in South Africa paid off and he said the whole month with England was worthwhile.

“The training in South Africa was tough, but that’s what it needed to be,” he said.

“All the lads will says it was beneficial, we did feel the effects of it and it made us feel fit and strong.

“I think that’s something they will be looking to do next year before the World Cup.

“The whole camp has been really good, we all got on with each other and I’ve made some mates.

“It’s a chance to talk to people you don’t really know. We’ve become really close over the last few weeks and it was good to top it off by winning the tournament.”

Hardaker was ever-present for Rhinos this year, playing every minute of all 27 league matches, four play-offs, five Carnegie Challenge Cup ties and the World Club Challenge.

“I’m looking forward to a break,” he admitted. “After the Grand Final we went straight into camp, so that was another four weeks.

“It’ll be good to get my feet up and have a bit of a rest, but we’re back before Christmas and it’ll go before I know it. It all starts again on December 17 when I am back in.

“I’ve got a bit of a tired body, but I’m only 21 so I’ll get over it.”

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