LONDON - Gareth Hock was dramatically dumped from England's World Cup squad yesterday, just four days before the start of the tournament, as the main hosts' preparations suffered another setback.
The 30-year-old second row forward was sent home from the squad's training camp in Loughborough, central England, for what the England management said were "serious breaches" of team discipline.
Hock's banishment from the squad came just days after their embarrassing warm-up loss to Italy that had been designed as a tune-up for Sunday's World Cup opener against tournament favourites Australia in Cardiff.
"As a result of serious breaches of team discipline that have fallen below the strict code of conduct as agreed by team management, Gareth Hock has been withdrawn from the England Rugby League World Cup squad with immediate effect," a statement issued by England team management said yesterday.
Hock's place in coach Steve McNamara's 24-man squad was taken by Huddersfield's Brett Ferres, who travelled to South Africa for the recent training camp as a reserve.
England said they would not be making any further public comment on why they'd decided to axe Hock.
But reports have surfaced that Hock was caught drinking against team orders.
It is not the first time the Wigan-born forward has put his career at risk.
In June 2009 he tested positive for cocaine following tests on a sample of urine taken during a match between Wigan and Salford and was handed the mandatory two-year ban. Nevertheless, Wigan remained loyal to Hock and in May 2011 he signed a new contract with the club taking him to the end of 2015.
However, Hock had a very public falling out with Wigan following the end of the international series and joined Widnes on a season-long loan.