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Austin on the wing for patched-up British

Wayne Bennett’s lop-sided approach to tour selection has thrust five-eighth Blake Austin into a Test debut on the wing when Great Britain face New Zealand in Christchurch.

Eight-season NRL servant Austin, who shifted to Super League side Warrington from this year, will make his first professional start on the wing when the Lions try to square their two-match series on Saturday.

Zak Hardaker suffered a shoulder injury during the 12-8 Test loss to the Kiwis at Eden Park, adding to problems created by the absence of winger Ryan Hall (knee) and centre Oliver Gildart (shoulder).

Bennett’s decision to name six recognised halves but only two wingers and one specialist centre in his original tour squad has resulted in a patched-up backline, which also features mobile second-rower Jack Hughes at centre.

Bennett believed 28-year-old Austin could play effectively out wide although he admitted he hadn’t asked the former Canberra playmaker if he’d played on the wing previously.

“I didn’t bother asking him that question, I didn’t want the answer to it,” Bennett said.

“Blake’s been wonderful, he’s accepted the challenge, wants to play and is keen as.

“He’s a football player, Blake is one of those guys that can play any position.

“The team is confident in him and he’s done everything right at training.”

Kiwis coach Michael Maguire confirmed second-rower Kenny Bromwich would miss the Test to be present for the birth of his child in Melbourne, with Corey Harawira-Naera to start.

If beaten, Bennett’s team will leave New Zealand with a disastrous 0-3 record after their opening 14-6 loss to Tonga.

Seasoned hooker Josh Hodgson was unconcerned the Lions had scored just two tries in as many games, believing the refereeing of England’s Chris Kendall had been influential in both dour, low-scoring Tests.

Hodgson hoped Australian whistleblower Gerard Sutton would ask defenders to release ball carriers more quickly this weekend.

Longer term, he suggested the introduction of a second referee to the international game could help.

“A lot of it’s down to the ref. Players can speed up a game but you can only get up as quick as someone will let you up as well…” Hodgson said.

“Whether it be (because of) one ref, I’m not too sure but I know, being used to two refs, that it certainly helps being told to move and get the game flowing.”

Source:: SportsNews

    

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