Hardaker pulls out of England squad

Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker has pulled out of the England World Cup squad due to “personal reasons”.

Hardaker, 22, hasn’t made an appearance in the tournament, although he did feature for the Knights side in the warm-up match against Samoa, where he won man of the match.

There had been speculation over his whereabouts over the weekend, when Steve McNamara reacted angrily to questioning from a BBC reporter, with the coach insisting that Hardaker was ill.

An England statement said: “Due to personal issues, Zak Hardaker is unable to commit to the England Rugby League programme and has informed the England RL management team that he wishes to withdraw from the squad and will not play any further part in Rugby League World Cup 2013.

England Rugby League will work with Zak’s club, Leeds Rhinos, to support him during this period.”

On the eve of the tournament, Gareth Hock was kicked out of the squad after missing training.

England will now run with a 23-man squad for their final group game against Fiji, and any subsequent knock-out games.

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