McNamara happy with full-back cover
England coach Steve McNamara is confident he has the full-back spot covered even if Sam Tomkins fails to recover from a knee injury in time for next Saturday's international against Wales in Wrexham.
Wigan's newly-crowned Man of Steel, who has been England's full-back in each of their last seven internationals, missed his club's final match of the season after twisting his knee during their play-off win over Catalan Dragons and remains a doubt for England's opening autumn international.
Zak Hardaker would be the obvious replacement while McNamara also has the versatile Stefan Ratchford as an option, and he said: "I think Zak is pushing really hard full stop. He's making a really strong claim to be included in the team."
Hardaker was named Super League young player of the year after making a spectacularly successful switch from centre to full-back for Leeds.
McNamara added: "He's playing full-back now but he can play really well in the centre and he can play on the wing as well. When a player has got that versatility, it makes him a really strong candidate.
"That's good for Sam as well. You constantly need that pressure of competition, regardless of how good a player you are. And there is Stefan Ratchford as well. He performed pretty well in that position in the second Exiles game."
McNamara will also have to find a back-up hooker for the game against the Welsh.
Regular number nine James Roby is unavailable after opting to sit out the autumn internationals and Michael McIlorum has one game left of a three-match suspension imposed for his sending-off for Wigan against Roby's St Helens in September.
With no other specialist hooker in his 24-man squad, McNamara looks likely to turn to Rob Burrow, who has made a successful switch from scrum-half for Leeds, while newly-appointed captain Kevin Sinfield also has international experience of the hooking role.
"Rob Burrow has been sensational again this year and we've got Kev himself who can play there very well so we've got that position covered," McNamara said.
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