Two more Great Britian players were yesterday ruled out of the upcoming second test with New Zealand and next weeks game against Papua New Guinea as Wigan Warriors Zac Hardaker and Warrington’s Joe Philbin have both picked up injuries during the week.
Adding those to the two players already returned back to their clubs in Centre Oliver Gildart who dislocated his shoulder against Tonga and Winger Ryan Hall who suffered a dislocated knee in the closing stages of last weeks defeat.
With just 20 fit players it now means Warrington duo Jack Hughes (second row) and former NRL star and Canberra raiders half back Austin Blake (pictured) will line up in the Centre and wing spots in todays game at the Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch.
The issue as raised the issues highlighted when the squad was originally annouced and the mis representation in certain positions with no less than 6 half backs named and only two specialist Wingers leaving no cover in case of Injury.
Earlier this week, Hardaker who plays Full Back at club level, but has featured as a centre in the two tests so far had been moved to wing in order to accommodate Hughes in the centre’s. After much discussion as to why chances were taken on this, the first Great Britian tour for over twelve years, head coach Wayne Bennett has decided to call up Leeds winger Ash Handley, but he will not arrive in time for Saturdays game.
Despite that Bennett is adamant that Australian born Austin can do the job on his Lions debut saying;
Austin has “accepted the challenge” and is “keen as” to play. He's a football player, one of those guys who can play any position, so I'm confident and he's confident.”
“”He's done everything right in training. It's a good challenge, It's not something I'm worried about.”
The plus point to the mid week crisis is that St Helen’s prop forward Luke Thompson has been passed fit to play and will take Philbin’s place on the bench. After missing last weeks first test against New Zealand after picking up an early injury against Tonga the week before, and will make a huge impact of the bench alongside St Helens team mate Alex Walmsley.
“I am a bit surprised but the cartilage is staying in now, it's not popping out any more,” Bennett said.
“He's a bit discomforted by it but that's not an unusual thing, players do play with those injuries.
“He's comfortable enough to play, he'll come off the bench. There will certainly be plenty of impact when he comes on.”
New Zealand: Tuivasa-Sheck; Maumalo, Nicoll-Klokstad, Manu, Isaako; Johnson, Marshall (capt); Tetevano, Smith, Waerea-Hargreaves, Nikora, Harawira-Naera, Tapine.
Replacements: Nikorima, Proctor, Ah Mau, Blair.
Great Britain: Lomax; McGillvary, Hughes , Connor, Austin; Widdop, Hastings; Hill, Hodgson, T Burgess, Bateman, Whitehead, Graham (capt).
Replacements (from): Jones, Clark, Walmsley, Thompson, Williams, Coote.