New Zealand v Great Britain Lions: Hardaker and Philbin out as tourists' injury list grows

Zak Hardaker
Zak Hardaker will miss the second Test against New Zealand with a shoulder injury
New Zealand v Great Britain Lions - second Test
Venue: Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch Date: Saturday, 9 November Kick-off: 07:00 GMT Coverage: Live on BBC Two (06:30 - 09:00 GMT), Highlights on BBC One (13:15 - 14:30 GMT)

Zak Hardaker and Joe Philbin are the latest players to be ruled out as Great Britain's tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea hits an injury crisis.

Four Lions player have been sidelined this week, with Ryan Hall and Oliver Gildart out with serious injuries.

Just 20 fit players remain on tour, including one specialist outside back.

For Saturday's second test against New Zealand, stand-off Blake Austin will play on the wing, with second rower Jack Hughes at centre.

The reshuffle ahead of the meeting in Christchurch is the second Wayne Bennett has been forced to make in the past four days, with Hardaker originally reverting to the wing in place of Hall when the squad was announced earlier in the week.

Head coach Wayne Bennett went on to call Leeds Rhinos winger Ash Handley into the squad, but he is not due to arrive until after the weekend and will only be available to play the final tour match against PNG in Port Moresby on 16 November.

Being forced to hand Australian-born Austin his Lions debut in an unfamiliar position has again highlighted the imbalance in Bennett's risky selection.

The veteran coach included six half-backs in his initial 24-man squad but only two wingers and one recognised centre.

Bennett, however, has said 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," Bennett continued.

""He's done everything right in training. It's a good challenge, It's not something I'm worried about."

It has not all been bad injury news at the midway point of Great Britain's comeback tour, as prop Luke Thompson has recovered from a rib injury to take Philbin's place on the bench.

The St Helens forward was hurt in the loss to a Tonga Invitational XIII on 26 October and missed the first Test.

"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.

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