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Great Britain player Blake Austin.

Blake Austin will make his Test debut in the unusual position of winger after answering an SOS call from Great Britain coach Wayne Bennett.

After a shoulder injury forced Zak Hardaker out of the team to face New Zealand in the second Test in Christchurch on Saturday, Bennett has been forced to move one of his halves into the outside backs.

Hardaker's omission follows the loss of centre Oliver Gildart (shoulder) and winger Ryan Hall (knee), which had already stretched Great Britain's thin outside back stocks.

At this stage Hardaker's injury isn't believed to be serious enough to rule him out of the Lions' final tour game against Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby next Saturday.

Match Highlights: New Zealand v Great Britain

Speaking on Friday, Bennett admitted that he has no idea if the Australian-born 28-year-old had played on the wing before.

"That's him, he's the man, he is the winger," Bennett said of Austin.

"I didn't bother asking him that question, I didn't want the answer to it, so I didn't ask him.

"Blake's been wonderful, he's accepted the challenge, wants to play and is keen as.

"He's a football player, Blake is one of those guys that can play any position.

"I'm confident in him, he's confident, the team is confident in him and he's done everything right at training. It's a good challenge, it's not something I'm worried about."

Blake Austin training with the Lions.
Blake Austin training with the Lions. ©

In his 122-game NRL career, Austin was never named as a winger.

Great Britain announced earlier in the week that Leeds winger Ash Handley would fly out to join the squad in Papua New Guinea, but Bennett said he wasn't considered for the Christchurch match.

The Lions did receive some positive news on the injury front this week, with prop Luke Thompson to return to the field after missing last week's 12-8 loss to New Zealand.

Thompson lasted just 12 minutes of Great Britain's opening match against Tonga before suffering a rib injury, and Bennett admitted he is still far from 100 per cent fit. 

"He's confident enough to play now and will come off the bench which will make it a little bit less impact early in the game, but there'll be certainly impact when he comes on," Bennett said.

"I am a bit surprised [he's playing], but the cartilage is staying in now, it's not popping out anymore.

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

New Zealand v Great Britain

Great Britain have scored just 14 points in losses to Tonga and New Zealand so far, but hooker Josh Hodgson said the side can take confidence from what they are doing on the other side of the ball.

The Lions have conceded two tries in each of those losses and last week kept the Kiwis to just two points in the first half. 

"I think the foundations of good teams are built off the back of defence, and I thought the last couple of weeks has been a really good effort defensively," Hodgson said.  

"We have not leaked too many points ... we haven't been blown away by anybody, so that's a really good starting point for us."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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