Blake Austin called up as emergency winger for injury-hit Great Britain

Wayne Bennett has backed Blake Austin to thrive as an emergency winger – even though he doesn't know if he's ever played there before.

Half-back Austin has been overlooked for the opening two Great Britain tests and was originally due to miss out again for Saturday's clash with New Zealand.

But Zak Hardaker – who was switched from centre to wing after Ryan Hall pulled out injured – is now out with a shoulder injury, forcing another reshuffle.

Bennett said: "Zak will not play so Austin is the winger. I did not bother asking him that question (if he'd played wing before) because I did not want the answer to it.

"Blake has been wonderful, he has accepted the challenge, wants to play, and is as keen as. He is a footballer and one of those blokes who can play in any position so I am confident, he is confident and the team is confident.

"He has done everything right in training. It is not something I am worried about."

Luke Thompson had been ruled out of the tour by Bennett after suffering a rib cartilage injury 12 minutes into the first Test against Tonga.

But the St Helens prop makes his comeback off the bench, as a result of Joe Philbin pulling out with a minor hamstring problem.

Bennett said: "I am a bit surprised but the cartilage is staying in, it is not popping out any more.

"He is a little discomforted by it but it is not unusual – players do play with those injuries.

"He is confident enough to play with it. He will go on the interchange bench. That will make a little less impact early in the game but there will be plenty of impact when he comes on."

Leeds winger Ash Handley has been called into the squad, due to the injury to Hardaker, but will not arrive until after Saturday's game. Bennett had originally pledged to stick with his current injury-hit squad.

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