Zak Hardaker, Joe Philbin ruled out of second Lions Test vs New Zealand
Great Britain coach Wayne Bennett left with just 20 fit players
Last Updated: 07/11/19 11:18pm
Great Britain are grappling with an injury crisis halfway through their tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Wigan full-back Zak Hardaker, who was due to play on the wing in Saturday's second Test against the Kiwis in Christchurch, and Warrington forward Joe Philbin, who was set to win his second cap from the bench, have both been ruled out through injury.
The blows follow the departure from the squad of Wigan centre Oliver Gildart and Sydney Roosters winger Ryan Hall, who were injured in the Lions' first two matches and leaves coach Wayne Bennett with just 20 fit players, including only one specialist three quarter.
Bennett has called Leeds winger Ash Handley into his squad but he is not due to arrive until after the weekend and is set to play in the final match against the Kumuls in Port Moresby on November 16.
For Saturday's game, Warrington stand-off Blake Austin will play on the wing, with second rower Jack Hughes at centre. St Helens prop Luke Thompson, meanwhile, will take Philbin's spot on the bench after recovering from a rib injury sustained in the opening game against a Tongan Invitational XIII.
Austin, who was born in Australia but qualifies for Britain through an English grandmother, will make his Lions debut but in an unfamiliar role as Bennett's risky selections come back to bite him.
The veteran coach included six half-backs in his initial 24-man squad but only two wingers and one recognised centre.
"Blake's been wonderful," Bennett said. "He's accepted the challenge. He wants to play, he's as keen as.
"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."
Bennett has been surprised by Thompson's recovery from a "popped" rib but says the 24-year-old is confident about being able to play some part in Saturday's game.
"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."
Great Britain revised team: Jonny Lomax, Jermaine McGillvary, Jack Hughes, Jake Connor, Blake Austin, Gareth Widdop, Jackson Hastings, Chris Hill, Josh Hodgson, Tom Burgess, John Bateman, Elliott Whitehead, James Graham (c).
Replacements (from): Josh Jones, Daryl Clark, Alex Walmsley, Luke Thompson, George Williams, Lachlan Coote.