Jamie Shaul ready to fight Jake Connor for Hull FC’s No1 position

Having battled back from a knee reconstruction, Jamie Shaul knows all about overcoming adversity so it should come as no surprise he is relishing his scrap with Jake Connor for Hull FC’s full-back role.

The sprightly Shaul had been the No1 at his hometown club for the best part of a decade, memorably helping them win the Challenge Cup twice, until he ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament last October.

In his enforced absence, the gifted England international Connor, who had flitted between stand-off and centre for much of his Hull career, found a new home for his array of skills.

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Connor has excelled at full-back this term leaving head coach Brett Hodgson believing that is probably the best position to harness his myriad talents.

When Shaul did make his return after 10 months out in last month’s derby, he came off the bench for a cameo at hooker as struggling FC secured what remains their only win in the last eight outings.

Nevertheless, with Australian Josh Reynolds then ruled out for the season, Connor switched to stand-off for Saturday’s agonising Golden Point Magic Weekend defeat against Leeds Rhinos, bringing Shaul back into the frame.

He hopes to retain his place when Wigan Warriors visit on Saturday before Hull’s regular season campaign finishes at Wakefield Trinity on Friday week, the club needing a miracle to force their way back into the top-six play-offs.

Shaul, who earned a solitary England cap himself against France in 2018, knows it is an opportunity to remind everyone of his own talents and put an early marker down for next season.

Hull FC's Jamie Shaul in action with Hull Kingston Rovers' Greg Minikin on his comeback game last month (Picture: John Clifton/SWPix.com)

“It’s my chance isn’t it?” said the 29-year-old.

“Jake has been killing it at the back but I finally get a chance to show what I can do at full-back.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting too much. It will only be my second full game back and hopefully I can build into it nicely and do my bit for the team.

“But you kind of need these battles in your career to keep you eager. I don’t think I’ve ever really had it throughout my full career.

Hull's Jamie Shaul has been out for much of the season (Picture: SWPix.com)

“It will be interesting what happens next year but who knows what the future holds?

“We’ll see who trains hardest in pre-season and Jake can play many positions as well so we’ll see how we go.”

Connor, 26, has already shown his versatility and Shaul certainly fared admirably with his surprise stint at hooker but he has no desire to now forge his own utility tag.

“I want to play full-back and have made that clear,” he added.

Hull FC's Jake Connor has been playing full-back in Shaul's absence (Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire)

“But there is only one spot for it so we’ll see how we go in pre-season and what the squad is.

“I might just have to play my bit for the team wherever it is. If that’s the case, it is what it is.”

Of more immediate importance is getting a victory against Wigan and ensuring a frustrating campaign does not end limply in front of their own fans.

Hull, who were so impressive earlier in the year, sit eighth and, mathematically at least, can still qualify for the top six.

Shaul, who missed defeats against Castleford Tigers and Salford Red Devils after ironically slightly damaging his MCL in the opposite knee during the derby, conceded: “It’s pretty slim but we can still make it. Even if we couldn’t, we need to play for pride.

“We’re not happy how the last eight weeks have gone. We don’t just want to roll over, think that’s it and get on Mad Monday.

“We want to finish on a high and have a real dig for each other.

“It was really hard against Leeds last week.

“That was one of the most 
gutting losses I’ve had as I genuinely thought we deserved to win the game so it was a hard one to take.

“The effort was unreal and we were very unlucky not to come away with the points.

“We need to build on that on Saturday.”

Fourth-placed opponents Wigan are almost secure of their own play-off spot but are far from firing on all cylinders.

Shaul said: “I don’t think they are playing the best rugby they can.

“Or performing to their best. But they just seem to win when they need to. It’s strange. It must be in their DNA.

“We have a tough ask this week but it’s one we’re up for.”

Meanwhile, in-form Hull winger Adam Swift may not play again until 2022 after burning his foot in an accident at home.

Hodgson said: “Adam Swift had an issue where he burned his foot quite badly. He had an accident so unfortunately he will be out and I’d assume for the remainder of the year.

“I don’t think there’s going to be long-term damage but it is substantial enough to more than likely keep him out for the next two weeks.”

Co-captain Danny Houghton is also going to miss out with a fractured wrist and Hodgson confirmed England prop Scott Taylor will not return as he is still struggling with broken ribs but loose forward Jordan Lane hopes to be back from a knee problem.