St Helens prop Luke Thompson set to play through pain barrier for Great Britain against Kiwis

Luke Thompson in training for Great Britain. Picture: SWPix
Luke Thompson in training for Great Britain. Picture: SWPix

St Helens prop Luke Thompson will take a spot on the bench for Great Britain in the second Test against New Zealand after recovering from a rib injury sustained in the opening tour game against a Tongan Invitational XIII.

GB coach Watyne Bennett has been surprised by Thompson's recovery from a "popped" rib but says the 24-year-old is confident about being able to play some part in Saturday's game.

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

"He's a bit discomforted by it but that's not an unusual thing, players do play with those injuries.

"He's comfortable enough to play, he'll come off the bench. There will certainly be plenty of impact when he comes on."

Great Britain are grappling with an injury crisis halfway through their tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

Wigan full-back Zak Hardaker, who was due to play on the wing in Saturday's second Test against the Kiwis in Christchurch, and Warrington forward Joe Philbin, who was set to win his second cap from the bench, have both been ruled out through injury.

The blows follow the departure from the squad of Wigan centre Oliver Gildart and Sydney Roosters winger Ryan Hall, who were injured in the Lions' first two matches and leaves coach Bennett with just 20 fit players, including only one specialist threequarter.

Bennett has called Leeds winger Ash Handley into his squad but he is not due to arrive until after the weekend and is set to play in the final match against the Kumuls in Port Moresby on November 16.

For Saturday's game, Warrington stand-off Blake Austin will play on the wing, with second rower Jack Hughes at centre.

Austin, who was born in Australia but qualifies for Britain through an English grandmother, will make his Lions debut but in an unfamiliar role as Bennett's risky selections come back to bite him.

The veteran coach included six half-backs in his initial 24-man squad but only two wingers and one recognised centre.

"Blake's been wonderful," Bennett said. "He's accepted the challenge. He wants to play, he's as keen as.

"He's a football player, one of those guys who can play any position, so I'm confident and he's confident.

"He's done everything right in training. It's a good challenge, It's not something I'm worried about."