10 Oct 2017

Banned Hardaker left out of England World Cup squad

6:50 am on 10 October 2017

England and Castleford Tigers full-back Zak Hardaker has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for cocaine and will miss the Rugby League World Cup.

Rugby League - Castleford Tigers v St Helens - Castleford's Zak Hardaker in action.

Rugby League - Castleford Tigers v St Helens - Castleford's Zak Hardaker in action. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The 25-year-old was omitted from the Tigers' squad for last weekend's's Grand Final loss to Leeds Rhinos and was not named in England's squad today.

Hardaker's failed test came after a Super 8s game against Leeds, his former club, on September 8th.

He could be suspended for two years as a result of his positive test.

Meanwhile Wigan's Sam Tomkins has missed out on a place in England's 24-man squad for the World Cup.

Warrington forward Ben Currie and St Helens prop Alex Walmsley - both of whom are uncapped - are called up.

Hooker James Roby returns after a two-year absence from the team.

Wigan loose forward Sean O'Loughlin captains a squad featuring seven NRL-based players, including South Sydney Rabbitohs duo Sam and Tom Burgess.

Tomkins, a former Warriors NRL player, made a strong push for a recall after being dropped from the elite training squad during his injury-hit start to the year, but his club's failure to make the play-off semi-finals denied him one last chance to impress.

England coach Wayne Bennett has opted to take 14 forwards and just 10 backs, including only two specialist wingers in Ryan Hall and Jermaine McGillvary.

"Selecting the final 24 with the help of my coaching staff was tough and that was down to the effort and performances of many players throughout the season," Bennett said.

"The competitiveness of Super League and NRL and knowing the goal of playing for your country in a World Cup has made many raise their game and become better athletes.

"The England program has been very active leading into this tournament and having the squad meet up on regular occasions - on and off the field - has put us in a positive place before everyone gets into camp."

England will fly out of Manchester on Thursday for a 10-day camp in Perth and will play a warm-up match against an Affiliated States team on Friday, October 20, to prepare for their opening group game against holders Australia in Melbourne a week later.

ENGLAND: John Bateman (Wigan), Kevin Brown (Warrington), Sam Burgess (South Sydney), Thomas Burgess (South Sydney), Ben Currie (Warrington), Luke Gale (Castleford), James Graham (St George Illawarra), Ryan Hall (Leeds), Chris Heighington (Cronulla), Chris Hill (Warrington), Josh Hodgson (Canberra), Jonny Lomax (St Helens), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield), Mike McMeeken (Castleford), Sean O'Loughlin (Wigan, capt), Mark Percival (St Helens), Stefan Ratchford (Warrington), James Roby (St Helens), Scott Taylor (Hull), Alex Walmsley (St Helens), Kallum Watkins (Leeds), Elliott Whitehead (Canberra), Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra), George Williams (Wigan).