McNamara happy with cover
Steve McNamara believes England have the full-back spot covered even if Sam Tomkins fails to recover from a knee injury in time to face Wales.
The Wigan ace, who has been England's full-back in each of their last seven internationals after starting out his international career at half-back, missed his club's final match of the season after twisting his knee during their play-off win over Catalan Dragons.
The newly-crowned Man of Steel underwent continuous treatment for the injury during the national team's high-altitude training camp in South Africa, from which they returned this weekend, but remains a doubt for England's opening autumn international.
Zak Hardaker, who was named Super League young player of the year after making a spectacularly successful switch from centre to full-back for Leeds, would be the obvious replacement while McNamara also has the versatile Stefan Ratchford as an option after he deputised for Tomkins in the second match of the Exiles Series in July.
"I think Zak is pushing really hard full stop," said McNamara, ahead of next Saturday's international against Wales in Wrexham. "He's making a really strong claim to be included in the team.
"He's playing full-back now but he can play really well in the centre and he can play on the wing as well. When a player has got that versatility, it makes him a really strong candidate.
"That's good for Sam as well. You constantly need that pressure of competition, regardless of how good a player you are.
"And there is Stefan Ratchford as well. He performed pretty well in that position in the second Exiles game."
McNamara will also have to find a back-up hooker for the game against the Welsh.
Regular number nine James Roby is unavailable after opting to sit out the autumn internationals and Michael McIlorum has one game left of a three-match suspension imposed for his sending-off for Wigan against Roby's St Helens in September.
With no other specialist hooker in his 24-man squad, McNamara looks likely to turn to Rob Burrow, who has made a successful switch from scrum-half for Leeds, while newly-appointed captain Kevin Sinfield also has international experience of the hooking role.
"Rob Burrow has been sensational again this year and we've got Kev himself who can play there very well so we've got that position covered," McNamara said.
McIlorum, 24, who played for Ireland in the 2008 World Cup in Australia, has lived in the shadow of Roby since switching his allegiance to England two years ago but looks set to get his chance to make his debut against France at Hull KR's Craven Park on November 3.
England are also expected to play in the final at the City of Salford Stadium on November 11.
"Mickey deserves an opportunity to be in the squad," McNamara added. "He's a young, enthusiastic player who is made for Test football.
"I'm certainly keen to see him in the games this year. He's been in the shadow of Roby and certain players go through that in their careers.
"I remember when Andy Farrell was around, nobody else got a look-in at loose forward.
"James Roby has dominated the hooking position for a long period of time - since 2006 he's not missed an international tournament at the end of the year.
"It gives somebody else an opportunity this time and, although McIlorum has still got one game to serve of his suspension, we've got other options and Mickey will be available as and when."