England's Hardaker looks to mix it up at Tigers
The in-form full-back, who has started the campaign brilliantly following his season-long loan move from Leeds Rhinos, is back in contention on the international front after being overlooked for last year’s Four Nations.
Leaders Castleford, in turn, have been superb, too, with Powell winning countless plaudits for his unbeaten side’s free-flowing, attractive football.
They handed out Leeds’s biggest-ever Super League defeat when winning 66-10 at Wheldon Road last Thursday and will look to make it four victories from their opening four fixtures when heading to Widnes Vikings on Sunday.
Indeed, such has been the excitement over creative Castleford’s thrilling displays, there have been calls for the traditionally more conservative England coach Wayne Bennett to adopt the same style with the national team at this year’s World Cup.
That is especially so given last autumn’s dour displays against Australia, New Zealand and Scotland saw England fail to even make the Four Nations final.
Hardaker took part in England’s elite training programme’s first session last Monday with the second scheduled a week today.
He was asked if there was a conflict between what his club and country coaches demand.
The 25-year-old Yorkshireman said: “It is different for every coach. Every coach has their own stamp on the game.
“I think it’s going to be different whoever it is. It’s just important that the key elements you get from this elite training with England, you take back into club level and probably help the players not up to that standard. Or to bring ideas to the coach you are currently working with and probably have an argument about it to see who’s right or wrong…!
“You’re with the club nearly every day so you get used to that.
“It’s just now about coming to England and trying to develop and adapt to what they want you to do.
“Personally, it’s really good to be back involved. I’ve been in and out of it for the last few years so to see some familiar faces is always good.”
If Hardaker maintains his current early-season form, he will almost certainly regain his England place for the World Cup.
He played in all three games during the 2015 Test series win against New Zealand having won Man of Steel that season, before last year’s difficulties at Headingley saw him miss out for Bennett’s first tournament.
But he is back in the mix now for these sessions which evolved from the ill-conceived cancelled January training trip to Dubai.
Instead, Super League clubs agreed with Bennett and the RFL to release their England players for a set amount of training days during the course of the season.
Hardaker feels that will hone performances and help end their long wait for success on the international stage. He continued: “These days are massively important for us.
“It’s been the same story for the last few years now – so close yet so far – but I think that is what is going to benefit us this time with meetings and training throughout the year like this.
“It’s something different and hopefully we can get the combinations we’ve probably been lacking towards the back end of the year and get that structure through us for a full season so it comes together in the World Cup.
“England have just been missing the cutting edge with some of the timing; sometimes you’re not used to the players you are playing with, especially round the back as a full-back, while different centres do different kinds of things, too.”
Hardaker, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Penrith Panthers in the NRL, added: “I was disappointed when I didn’t get picked for the Four Nations. Wayne basically told me I’d not played enough rugby so that was his call. But I thought I’ll definitely be playing a lot this season so it’s just up to me now to pull my finger out, get some good performances under my belt and make sure he can’t not pick me.
“And when I was at Penrith it was just all about Australia. England’s a bit of a down grade. But with Wigan and Warrington beating the NRL sides in the World Club Series it gives England players a lot of confidence we can do it for the national team, too.
“I want to go back to Oz and show them what English players can do. Hopefully this year I will.”