By STEVE MASCORD
ENGLAND has been hit by another World Cup drama with coach Steve McNamara refusing to say why crack centre Zac Hardaker had been left out of the big win over Ireland.
Reports surfaced before kick-off in the 42-0 shutout before a ground record 24,373 crowd in Huddersfield that Leeds Hardaker had become the latest man to be punished for disciplinary breaches and his position in the squad for the rest of the tournament was in jeopardy.
When McNamara was asked by Fairfax Media about the reports, he said: “I don’t really know what the reports were so I can’t really clarify anything to you.”
Asked if Hardaker was injured, McNamara said: “No. He wasn’t picked, like there were seven this week who weren’t picked.
“You’ve very good at speculating, very good at trying to find things out. As the press, I guess it’s your job.
“The reality is, any decision I make is based on the best decision for the team and for the group and not based around pleasing the media.”
McNamara had previous reacted tersely to questions about disciplinary issues in his squad. Second rower Gareth Hock was sacked from the tournament in circumstances that have not been completely explained and former captain James Graham was missing from the opening match against Australia amid reports of him breaking a drinking ban.
Graham, who came off the bench in Saturday’s eight-try win at John Smiths Stadium, was afterwards asked why he was omitted in Cardiff.
“It’s not my thing to talk about selection policy. You’d have to ask the coach,” the Canterbury forward said.
“It was (hard) but I wasn’t selected and I was still cheering the boys on and they did a really good job.”
England played with poise and confidence at Huddersfield against an Irish combination including many part-timers, leading 30-0 at halftime. On one wing, Ryan Hall posted a hat trick while on the other, Tom Briscoe got one over selection rival Josh Charnley with a brace.
Sean O’Loughlin also made a return, meaning his last three games were a Challenge Cup final, a Super League grand final and a Test.
Despite prop Brett White playing on with concussion, the Irish side which will host Australia at Thomond Park, Limerick, next Saturday had no answer to the English class – although they did look like prizing open the defence at times.
“What you want is a consistent level of support,” said Ireland coach Mark Aston. “I don’t think any of the home nations get the right sort of support.
“We went into camp two weeks ago today. We’ve had 10 sessions together, 12 sessions. It makes it very tough for them.”
ENGLAND 42 (Ryan Hall 3, Tom Briscoe 2, Brett Ferres, Kallum Watkins, Rangi Chase tries; Kevin Sinfield 4, Gareth Widdop goals) bt IRELAND 0 at John Smiths Stadium. Referee: Thierry Alibert (France). Crowd: 24,373.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD