Rugby League World Cup: Steve McNamara dodges questions on Hardaker's exit
Steve McNamara has refused to be drawn into answering questions as to why Zak Hardaker withdrew from his squad.
Last Updated: 07/11/13 9:53am
The England team management ended days of speculation over the Leeds Rhinos full-back on Monday evening when they confirmed he had pulled out of the squad, citing personal reasons.
The withdrawal of Hardaker comes a fortnight after the axing of Gareth Hock for a series of disciplinary breaches while James Graham was left out of the England side for the opening World Cup match against Australia without explanation.
At his weekly media briefing at Loughbough University on Tuesday, McNamara maintained his steadfast refusal to comment on rumours of breaches of the team's alcohol ban and played down the effects of the off-field distractions.
"I'm not frustrated at all," McNamara said. "I'm really happy with the squad that we've got. When you coach or manage, you have all sorts of different situations to deal with."
McNamara drafted Huddersfield's Brett Ferres in to plug the gap caused by the loss of Hock before the tournament kicked off but says he did not explore the chances of obtaining a replacement for Hardaker.
"I didn't want to," he said. "We've got a very good squad, we're covered in most positions."
McNamara expects to be able to pick from a full-strength 23-man squad for Saturday's final Group A match against Fiji at Hull's KC Stadium, a fixture that will likely determine who will finish second in the table behind Australia.
Utility forward Sam Burgess will return from a one-match ban while younger brother George Burgess and fellow front rower Graham are expected to recover from knee injuries sustained in the 42-0 win over Ireland last Saturday.
"I can't see envisage any injury problems going into this game," McNamara said. "It is still early in the week but they're both responding very well.
"I've got some headaches all round. It's really tough and it's how it should be. It's what we've been looking for for a long period of time.
"Throughout the squad there are some really good players who haven't yet had an opportunity to play in this World Cup. This week is going to be another difficult week in terms of selection.
"I've said all along I certainly wouldn't make decisions based on keeping everything fluffy and nice.
"If a couple of changes need making, I'll make them. If I feel someone potentially needs a week off, like I did last week, I'll do that as well.
"It's based on getting us to the end position in the best possible shape ready to perform and hopefully win the competition."
McNamara left out winger Josh Charnley, Super League's leading tryscorer for the last two seasons, against Ireland and must now decide whether to recall him at the expense of either Tom Briscoe, who took his chance by scoring two tries, or hat-trick hero Ryan Hall.
There is also plenty of competition in the pack, but the coach will not have any hesitation in recalling Sam Burgess, whose appearance against Australia was his first in an England shirt on home soil for three years.
"He's a world-class player," McNamara said. "He was disappointed to miss last week's game.
"He's not played enough times on British soil in recent history, particularly in an England jersey, so it was disappointing for everybody - himself, the players, the coaching staff and the fans who want to see Sam play."