Ex-Leeds Rhinos star Zak Hardaker in the running for starting Great Britain spot

Great Britain Lions coach Wayne Bennett during training in Auckland. (Photo: Brett Phibbs /www.photosport.nz /SWpix.com)
Great Britain Lions coach Wayne Bennett during training in Auckland. (Photo: Brett Phibbs /www.photosport.nz /SWpix.com)
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ZAK HARDAKER looks set to get the nod ahead of Hull FC’s Jake Connor for Great Britain’s right centre berth against a Tonga Invitational XIII on Saturday.

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Head coach Wayne Bennett has named an initial 21-man squad with Castleford Tigers’ Jake Trueman plus Warrington duo Blake Austin and Joe Philbin the ones missing out.

However, the way the squad is listed suggests Wigan Warriors full-back Hardaker - a surprise inclusion on the 24-man touring party - will line up on the right edge for their opening tour game.

It also hints at uncapped Australian-born Jackson Hastings partnering Gareth Widdop in the halves with Jonny Lomax on the bench and Connor - given number 18 - Jack Hughes, George Williams and Daryl Clark missing out.

But Bennett will further trim his squad to 19 on Friday when the image of his side will become clearer.

Meanwhile, James Graham is set to join one of rugby league’s most exclusive clubs when he leads out Great Britain in Hamilton on Saturday.

The 34-year-old Liverpudlian prop is the only member of the 2019 Lions to have played previously for Great Britain, having won his first five international caps wearing the blue and red V in 2006-7.

Since then, he has earned a further 44 caps for England – meaning he will win his 50th international cap this weekend.

Graham will become only the fourth British player in the history of Rugby League to reach a half century – following Jim Sullivan, Mick Sullivan and Adrian Morley.

They were joined last autumn by the former New Zealand captain Ruben Wiki, and the Australian trio of Darren Lockyer, Cameron Smith and Petero Civoniceva – who also represented Fiji – as the seven players to be awarded Golden Caps by the Rugby League International Federation in recognition of their achievement in winning 50 international caps.

The Tongans have included Salford stand-off Tui Lolohea, Warrington forward Ben Murdoch-Masila, Leeds Rhinos centre Konrad Hurrell and Hull-bound enforcer Manu Ma’u, as well as a host of stars of their run to the semi finals of the 2017 World Cup such as Michael Jennings and Jason Taumalolo.

Great Britain: Coote, McGillvary, Hardaker, Gildart, Hall, Widdop, Hastings, Hill, Hodgson, Thompson, Bateman, Whitehead, Graham, Jones, T Burgess, Lomax, Walmsley, Connor, Hughes, Williams, Clark