Talking RL: In the McQueen-England debate, one thing has been missed...

Wayne Bennett has called up two Australians
Wayne Bennett has called up two Australians
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In all the debate about Chris McQueen’s selection for England, something has been largely-overlooked: He turned down the chance to play for England at the last World Cup.

The Brisbane-born forward now he is “so proud and excited” to be included in the squad for next week’s Test against Samoa.

I’m sure he is.

But rewind a few years, to the last chance he had the opportunity to represent his father’s homeland, and it was a different story.

“He told me he had thought about it but then said, ‘I don’t care how long it takes I’m desperate to play for Queensland’,” his agent, Sam Pyne, was quoted in Brisbane’s Courier-Mail.

“Chris decided that Queensland, while it might be a long term goal, was who he wanted to represent because that is where he’s from.

Is it really for clubs to decide who can play for their country or not? Officially, no.

“He’s a country kid from Kingaroy and he’s as Queensland as it gets.”

Playing for England would have scuppered his State of Origin hopes and, given his dream was to pull on the Maroons jersey, history tells you he made the right choice - he went on to play for Queensland in six games between 2013-14.

Even pulled on Australia’s Green and Gold, albeit for a Prime Minister’s XIII representative side.

But now 29, he is out of the Origin frame and out of the Kangaroos frame.

And now he’s in the England side.

It’s not cynical to suggest he has only switched loyalties because he realises his chances of pulling on the Maroons, or Green and Gold, shirts are slim-to-non-existent.

He has admitted as much.

“It’s still something I’ve been thinking about over the last couple of days is that I’ll never get that opportunity to pull on that Maroon jersey again but I’ve done that and I absolutely loved it but the opportunity to play some international footy, I couldn’t pass that up,” he said.

And honestly? I don’t blame him.

A new experience, a Test match, and everything that comes with it?

Why not.

I’m sure he’ll try his best and be proud to represent his dad.

When it comes to loyalties to counties, I know it’s not always black and white. There’s grey, too.

Which is why I understand how people can have allegiances to two countries.

My wife is English, but she was born in South Africa.

She’ll support England and Great Britain at everything... but if the Springboks are on TV against the All Blacks, she’ll support the country she has no memories of living in (she left as a toddler).

McQueen has never lived in this country but says “it would be impossible for me not to feel the connection” from listening to his dad’s stories.

I don’t doubt pulling on the England shirt will mean something to McQueen.

But it won’t mean everything. It’s a back-up option because, in his words, the Queensland ‘ship had sailed’.

Look, I know what happens in other sports. I know what other nations do.

Even the mighty Kangaroos exploited the rules last year to call-up a Fijian and so if they’re doing it, what hope have the rest of us got, right?

I know this is a fact of modern sport. But I still don’t like it.

I don’t like England being an option for players who can’t get into the rep’ sides they want.

I want England players who feel English (wherever they were born), support England.

Earlier this week, I asked Chris Hill how hard it will be to play just a few days after a long flight. “It will be tough, but we’re playing for our country – I’d get a train to Australia if I could to play in this game,” he said.


Which is why I applauded the Rugby League International Federation when it changed the ‘residency rule’ from three years to five. A small step in the right direction.

And, if England are going to go down the ancestry route, I’m glad it’s for two players who qualify under the ‘parent’ rule, and not through a grandparent.

Whether England need McQueen and fellow Aussie Chris Heighington, 34, is a debate for another day (though it’s hard not to feel for Liam Farrell and McQueen’s - genuinely-English - Gold Coast team-mate Joe Greenwood).

No-one is suggesting Wayne Bennett has broken any rules.

But then again, I could name a hypothetical England side without a single Englishman in it without breaking any rules!

Which is why, when it comes down to it, we have to hope the national coach doesn’t take it too far.

Hope he doesn’t just look to exploit the rules, but looks at the individual cases within the rules.

And if you’re looking for criteria for the kind of player England should look at - wherever they were born, however they qualify - then replace ‘Queensland’ with ‘England’, and the words of McQueen’s agent from a few years ago are not a bad starting place: “Desperate to play for (England), (England) was who he wanted to represent because that is where he’s from - he’s as (English) as it gets.”

They’re the type of people I want to see playing for England.

‘Samoa stripped of Super League stars for England clash’, read the headline in League Express.

Coach Matt Parish says it is “exciting” that many quality Samoan internationals are on these shores - including Castleford’s Ben Roberts and Junior Moors, and Salford’s Junior Sa’u, who are set to face Wigan in their next two games.

Parish last year called up Frank Pritchard from Hull FC for their mid-season Test, but he won’t be calling on them for the May 6 Test against England in Sydney.

“Hull were very good to let Frank and (Tonga’s) Sika Manu come, what was terrific for the game. But it’s not going to happen this year unfortunately.”

Why not?

“I don’t think the clubs will allow it,” he was quoted as saying.

Which I found intriguing.

Is it really up to clubs to decide who can play for their country or not?

Officially, no.

Under the RFL’s operational rules B5:5, “Each club agrees to release any player who is selected to play in a representative match.”

I checked with the RFL, who checked with operations department, and they confirmed it applies for nations such as Samoa and Tonga as much as for England.

I checked with the Rugby League International Federation, too, and a spokesman pointed out some Super League players are representing other nations that weekend - including, I’m told, Anthony Gelling with the Cook Islands.

Which suggests it shouldn’t matter at all whether “clubs will allow it” or not.

Some have questioned the point of England playing next week. Not me.

It’s just a shame next weekend has not been left free of Super League fixtures.

Then it could have involved other nations, and been fairer to clubs with more international involved.

If only a weekend hadn’t been left blank at the start of the year for a Dubai training camp...