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Jack Hughes unfazed to make Lions debut in unfamiliar centre role

Jack Hughes unfazed to make Lions debut in unfamiliar centre role
© Reuters
Zak Hardaker switches moves to the wing in place of the injured Ryan Hall.

Second rower Jack Hughes is confident he can do a job in a makeshift three-quarter line for Great Britain.

The Warrington forward will make his Lions debut at centre in the second Test against New Zealand in Christchurch on Saturday, with Zak Hardaker switching to the wing in place of the injured Ryan Hall.

The former Leeds winger dislocated his left patella five minutes from the end of Saturday's 12-8 defeat in Auckland and has returned to Sydney to continue his recovery with his club side, the Roosters.

Warrington's Jack Hughes
Warrington's Jack Hughes will make his GB debut at centre (Chris Radburn/PA)

With Wigan centre Oliver Gildart also leaving the tour to continue his treatment for the shoulder he dislocated against Tonga, coach Wayne Bennett has been left without a specialist centre and only one recognised winger but, because of the travel and time constraints, he has decided not to send for a replacement.

Hughes began his career as a centre at Wigan and demonstrated his versatility by playing at stand-off in his team's Challenge Cup win over St Helens in August.

"Obviously a couple of injuries have tested the depth of the squad and Wayne has asked me to jump in at centre and do a job and I'll do it all the justice I can," Hughes said.

"It's not where I thought I would make my debut but I'm happy to do a job for the team. It's about team first, especially at this level.

"It's nothing new to me, nothing that fazes me. Back in my Wigan days, I played the majority of a full season at centre.

"Obviously you are under a bit more stress, a bit more pressure decision-making wise but it's nothing I can't handle.

"It will be the proudest moment of my career by far. It's something I've aspired for since being a little kid watching Great Britain."

Assistant coach Ian Watson does not believe the enforced changes weaken the team as they go in search of a series-levelling win.

"I think Zak will be great for us being out on the edge," Watson said. "His utility value is massive for us, being able to play centre, full-back and wing.

Zak Hardaker
Zak Hardaker will switch to the wing for the second Test (Martin Rickett/PA)

"I don't think that will be a big loss just because of the person Zak is and Hughesy has played in the centre for Warrington and he's played at half as well so he's got the ability and the skill to play there.

"But the big thing is that he's very defensively sound which in international football is huge."

Britain have received some positive injury news with St Helens prop Luke Thompson recovering from  rib cartilage damage he sustained 12 minutes into the opening defeat by Tonga.

Luke Thompson is fit to return for Britain
Luke Thompson is fit to return for Britain (Martin Rickett/PA)

He sat out last Saturday's first Test defeat in Auckland but has been named on an extended bench.

Team: J Lomax (St Helens); J McGillvary (Huddersfield), J Hughes (Warrington), J Connor (Hull FC), Z Hardaker (Wigan); G Widdop (St George Illawarra), J Hastings (Salford);  C Hill (Warrington), J Hodgson (Canberra), T Burgess (South Sydney), J Bateman (Canberra), E Whitehead (Canberra),  J Graham (St George Illawarra, capt).

Replacements (from): J Jones (Salford), J Philbin (Warrington), D Clark (Warrington),  A Walmsley (St Helens), B Austin (Warrington), G Williams New (Wigan), L Thompson (St Helens), L Coote (St Helens).

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