RLWC2013: Hardaker bides time in pursuit of honours

Zak Hardaker.
Zak Hardaker.
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LEEDS RHINOS back Zak Hardaker is hoping he has done enough to win a place in England’s opening World Cup team.

Hardaker was man of the match for the second-string England Knights in their 52-16 demolition of Samoa.

And his performance has given coach Steve McNamara something to think about as he debates his team for Saturday’s tournament opener against Australia in Cardiff.

“It would be fantastic,” Hardaker said of his hopes of featuring in the World Cup.

“But if I don’t – if I have to sit and watch the boys – I will do that.

“I train with the squad all the time and everyone helps each other out. I will help the squad as much as I can and if I get picked I will do the best I can.”

England are back in training today after their shock warm-up loss to Italy and McNamara is set to name his team later in the week.

“I’ll get back into camp and see where we got from there,” Hardaker said.

The former Featherstone Rovers star insisted he wasn’t disappointed to be named in the Knights side, rather than playing for the senior team.

“Not at all,” he said. “I have been named in the 24-man squad for the World Cup, I am 22 years of age and it’s my third year in Super League.

“I can’t grumble about it at all.

“To represent your country, no matter what level it is, is always a good experience.

“I am always happy to represent my country and I will always give 100 per cent.

“Steve said he wanted to see how I go in the centre. It is a 24-man squad and you can’t get all of those into the team.

“It is important for people to play out of position because if injuries crop up – which hopefully they don’t – people will need to slot into different positions.

“He has seen me play at full-back, but if there’s any injuries in the centres maybe I can get a role there.

“I hope there’s no injuries and Steve can put his strongest squad out, but if there is he will need to shuffle things about.”

Hardaker’s goal kicking was another positive from the Samoa game, as he landed eight successful kicks from nine attempts.

“Tommy Makinson was supposed to be kicking,” he revealed. “But then in training I was asked if I fancied kicking.

“I hadn’t had any practice, but I thought why not?

“When I had a little stint kicking at Leeds this year I didn’t do my best.

“I did all right, but since then I’ve been concentrating on my kicking with Kevin (Sinfield) and I’ve redone my tactics a little bit and it has paid off.”

The England senior team’s 
15-14 defeat by Italy was a blow to national pride, but Hardaker said the way the Knights performed - against a team fancied to reach at least the World Cup quarter-finals – proved the future is in good hands.

“We looked at the Samoa team before the game and it was a very strong side,” Hardaker reflected.

“Eighty or 90 per cent of it’s NRL-based and they are all first-graders, so we knew it was going to be a tough task.

“But the young lads’ enthusiasm shone through along with their willingness to work for each other and it was great to be part of it.

“The Knights is about putting yourself in the shop window.

“We won comfortably and quite a few players played really well.”