Zak Hardaker is hoping that his England recall is further proof to his doubters that he has changed for the better.
And he’s determined to right the wrongs of his international career after earning his first call-up to the national side in five years.
Hardaker has missed out on the previous two World Cups due to controversies that have affected the majority of his career. In 2013 he was omitted from the squad in the run-up to the tournament, before failing a drugs test in 2017, which put paid to any chance of playing.
And Hardaker insisted to League Express that he’s now settled in his life off the field, comfortable with his career and keen to show he can perform for England.
He said: “I’ve never played in a World Cup and it’s always been my fault. I want to put that right further down the track, but I’m really passionate about taking on the Australians at some stage.
“I was talking with Sarge [Dan Sarginson] the other day and, when you think about it, I’ve got everything I need. I’d always struggled to be away from home and that didn’t help what was going on, but we’re settled here in Wigan, my partner has a job and I have my car back.
“Throw in the fact that I’m lucky enough to still be playing the game, and there’s nothing more I want. When I was younger I’d have taken been happy to take things for granted, but when you come through the other side of all that stuff, most of which was self-inflicted, I can take a step back and appreciate everything I’ve got.”
Hardaker is eager to work under England coach Shaun Wane for the first time, having arrived at Wigan after Wane’s departure.
“I had a coffee with Shaun before he left the club after I’d signed,” he said.
“He said he always wanted to coach me and I have always wanted to play under Shaun from when I played against his Wigan teams. I was excited when he got announced as the England coach because it meant there might be a chance to play under him if I played well enough.”
Hardaker also believes Wane will restore some feeling back into the national side.
“He wants to get the pride back and I think we’ve lost our way with that in the last couple of years, especially with the Great Britain tour,” he said.
“He will tell it how it is, and I think that’s great for a group of players striving to do something huge over the next couple of years.
“Everyone has been really good to me since I got here at Wigan, and I feel like I’m an integral part of a rugby club. I’m in the leadership group and I’ve got the England call. Two years ago, to say that would be happening would have been laughable.”