Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson defends “niggled” Jake O’Connor

AS he weighs up how best to replace the banned Jake Connor for tomorrow’s Betfred Challenge Cup quarter-final, Hull FC head coach Brett Hodgson says his controversial full-back is misunderstood.

Banned: Hull's Jake O'Connor is out of the Challenge Cup quarter-final against Wigan after being banned following an incident in the league match between the sides last weekend. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The England international misses the clash with Wigan Warriors after receiving a one-game ban for a high tackle when the sides met in Super League last week.

Connor, who is shortlisted for Super League’s April player of the month award, was sin-binned for the swinging arm challenge on Zak Hardaker which left his England rival furious.

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However, having seen the club unsuccessfully appeal the ban, Hodgson said: “I think Jake gets niggled quite a lot.

“I think there is a lot of blame put on Jake whereas I don’t believe he instigates a lot of the stuff that he is accused of doing.

“We love what Jake is doing for us as a group; he’s a very good player, is performing well for us and we’ll continue to support him while he does that.

“I’ve got absolutely no issues at all with Jake.”

The mercurial Connor has always played on the edge but Hodgson maintained: “We don’t want to rein him in.

Misunderstood: Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson has defended Jake O'Connor. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

“He’s a quality player. He’s got the ability to turn a game on its head and he’s continuing to improve as well. He’s an integral part of what we’re doing.”

Hull could play Connor Wynne tomorrow after the youngster was recalled from a loan spell at York City Knights.

But centre Josh Griffin, winger Adam Swift or even fit-again Australian half-back Josh Reynolds could also slot in at No1.

Wynne, Reynolds and Manu Ma’u come in to Hull’s 21-man squad to replace Connor, Brad Fash (ban) and Scott Taylor (ankle).

FC lost their unbeaten start to the season when they fell 16-14 at Wigan last week, opponents who have won all six games so far.

Wigan have winger Dom Manfredi included in their 21-man squad for the first time this season as he replaces Tony Clubb who starts an eight-game ban for racially abusing Hull forward Andre Savelio.

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