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Zak Hardaker out of England's World Cup squad after positive drugs test

The Independent logo The Independent 09/10/2017 Sports Staff
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Zak Hardaker has been banned for failing a drugs test and will subsequently miss the Rugby World Cup, the Rugby Football League has announced.

Castleford dropped the full-back for Saturday's Super League Grand Final for what they called a breach of club rules and the governing body has now revealed the player tested positive for a banned substance following the win over Leeds a month ago.

A statement confirmed: "The Rugby Football League can confirm that Zak Hardaker is provisionally suspended from all competition after it received notification from UK Anti-Doping that he had tested positive for a banned substance following a Super 8s game between Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos on September 8, 2017."

Castleford clearly missed the 2017 Man of Steel runner-up and Super League Dream Team full-back on Saturday as they slumped to a 24-6 defeat by the Rhinos at Old Trafford.

Hardaker's omission is expected to pave the way for Jonny Lomax to reclaim the England number one jersey, even though he played stand-off for St Helens in the last month of the domestic season following the arrival of Australian full-back Ben Barba.

Lomax was arguably England's best performer in the 2016 Four Nations Series, but missed the mid-season Test against Samoa in Sydney through injury, when coach Wayne Bennett opted to play Warrington utility player Stefan Ratchford at full-back, with Hardaker chosen at centre.

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Hardaker was one of the stars of Castleford's season (Getty Images)

Wigan's Sam Tomkins 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.

Lomax's Saints team-mate, hooker James Roby, is set for a recall after a two-year absence and there is likely to be a call-up for Warrington second rower Ben Currie, who played for Ireland in the last World Cup but has long been on England's radar.

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