Talking RL: Room for both brilliant full-backs

Sam Tomkins and Ben Westwood at a team-building exercise with England
Sam Tomkins and Ben Westwood at a team-building exercise with England

WHY the fuss about who will fill the England full-back spot? Why the false debate whether Zak Hardaker will get the nod ahead of Sam Tomkins?

Hardaker will get the nod tomorrow because Tomkins is still not fit.

Wigan's exploits get a mention at the FA's training base

Wigan's exploits get a mention at the FA's training base

But once they are both available, hopefully for the opening Test against the Kiwis, it seems logical to move Hardaker to centre.

Indeed, it would seem daft to do anything else!

If Brisbane centre Jack Reed was in the squad, it would be a different story. But he isn’t.

And so England only have one quality centre – Kallum Watkins – available.

Yes, Huddersfield’s Leroy Cudjoe is also in the 24-man party, but he’s quite fortunate to be included – he’s not had a vintage year. I’d argue he wasn’t even the best centre at the Giants last year: Joe Wardle was.

And while I’m a huge fan of John Bateman, everyone can see he is really a back-rower.

And if Steve McNamara isn’t going to start Bateman, then surely put him on the bench as the replacement forward – he also provides cover, should a three-quarter go down injured.

Both Tomkins and Hardaker are too good to leave either out – even if one has to move positions to accommodate them both.

And not only has Hardaker played centre before, but there’s no other strong alternative.

Elsewhere, I’m pleased McNamara has picked George Williams in his squad to face France.

He finished the season in fine form and deserves first stab at the role of partnering Gareth Widdop in the halfback roles.

I SHARE the view of Frank Endacott that this is England’s best chance of winning a Test series in years.

New Zealand are the No.1 team in the world and they have talented players – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Isaac Luke – but they are depleted, especially at half-back.

England, by contrast, have few injury concerns. They must be in rude health if they can afford to leave Micky McIlorum out the squad!

And they’ll have no excuses. On Tuesday, I went down to the St George’s Park training base they are using for the series.

It’s hardly an exaggeration to say it’s like a palace, with state-of-the-art facilities and pitches.

And it was nice to see Wigan’s exploits mentioned in a mural on the gym wall.

WIGAN pulled off a big coup in re-signing John Bateman.

His all-action displays this year had alerted NRL clubs and, with just a year left on his deal, he would have had no shortage of offers.

But the Warriors have now secured his services for at least three years – maybe a fourth – depending on whether he wants to test himself Down Under.

And every indication suggests Bateman is going to get better and better over the next few seasons as he matures, fills out and polishes those few rough edges.

When Wigan signed Bateman, I was among those who were surprised. Not because I didn’t rate him, but because Wigan didn’t need any more back-rowers.

But Shaun Wane saw something special in him, and we’ve all seen it since.