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Has Nick Fury found a female sidekick for The Avengers?

There has been word recently that Samuel L. Jackson's S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury will be joined by a female sidekick for The Avengers .

Now Deadline are reporting that Cobie Smulders, best known for TV show How I Met Your Mother , is the front runner to play S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill in Joss Whedon's superhero epic.

She could be locked in before the weekend is out, after besting competition that included Firefly 's Morena Baccarin, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Jessica Lucas.

As the ruthless agent, Smulders could see herself committed to several Marvel movies if she takes the role.

She'll be joining Scarlett Johansson as one of the rare ladies in a testosterone-heavy cast that features Robert Downey Jr, Jeremy Renner, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo and, of course, Samuel L. Jackson.

The Avengers is set for release on 4 May 2012.