Rugby League World Cup: Leeds back Zak Hardaker leaves England squad
Leeds back Zak Hardaker has withdrawn from England's World Cup squad for personal reasons.
Last Updated: 07/11/13 9:49am
The 22-year-old's withdrawal leaves coach Steve McNamara with a squad of 23 for the last group game against Fiji in Hull on Saturday and the knockout stages.
A statement from England said: "Due to personal issues, Zak Hardaker is unable to commit to the England Rugby League programme and has informed the England RL management team that he wishes to withdraw from the squad and will not play any further part in Rugby League World Cup 2013."
England say they will work with Leeds to support Hardaker, who has asked for privacy.
Hardaker did not play in either of England's first two matches against Australia and Ireland.
McNamara put his absence down to illness and responded angrily to suggestions from the media that Hardaker was set to become the second player to be thrown out of the squad for a breach of discipline.
Hardaker was thought to be among the group of players who broke an alcohol ban in the aftermath of England's shock defeat by Italy in a warm-up match at Salford on October 19.
Gareth Hock was thrown out of the squad for sleeping in and missing the following morning's recovery session.
Hock revealed in a television interview that "six or seven" players in all were involved in the drinking session and claimed McNamara had told him they would also be punished.
Prop forward James Graham was a notable absentee when McNamara named his team for the World Cup opener against Australia in Cardiff but returned to face the Irish.
Hardaker has only won one cap, against Wales last year, but he was man of the match in England Knights' 52-16 win over Samoa last month.