McQueen set for history-making debut
Titans back-rower Chris McQueen has admitted that he wrestled with his decision to give up his dream of ever playing for Queensland again before confirming his representative allegiance to England, hitting back at those who have questioned his right to make his Test debut against Samoa next weekend.
McQueen was on Monday night included in a 20-man England squad by coach Wayne Bennett to take part in next weekend's representative round, with his inclusion – along with that of Sharks forward Chris Heighington – receiving short shrift back in England from commentators who believe other Super League-based players were more worthy.
Although players from developing rugby league nations such as Samoa, Tonga and Fiji may now represent the country of their heritage without jeopardising any future Origin opportunities, as England is classified as a tier one nation McQueen will no longer be eligible for either Queensland or Australia.
The six-time Maroons representative admitted that letting go of that goal was the most difficult part of the decision-making process but that being overlooked for last year's series convinced him that his Origin days were over, opening the door to create history as the first Origin representative to also play for England.
"When those boys that got suspended from the Origin system and the injuries they had I was hopeful of getting a call-up into that Queensland team for last year and it didn't happen, which is fine, but that was the thing that made me realise that that ship has probably sailed and it was time to move on," said McQueen.
"For me it wasn't about turning my back on Origin because I still absolutely love the Queensland organisation and I still am a Queenslander but for me it was about taking the opportunities that are in front of me.
"It's still something I've been thinking about over the last couple of days, that I'd never get that opportunity to pull that Maroon jersey on ever again but I've done that and I absolutely loved it but the opportunity to play some international footy was something I couldn't pass up."
Overlooked by Bennett for England's 2016 Four Nations campaign in England, McQueen said he wasn't sure what had changed but reconfirmed his commitment to playing for England when Bennett enquired as to his availability last Friday.
When he confirmed he was still keen to represent the country of his father Kevin's birth he sealed his future representative fate, a decision Bennett praised as being a strong one.
"Once they play for England they can't play for anyone else," Bennett said.
"He's made a pretty strong decision. If you play for a country like Samoa you can still play for Australia, New Zealand and England still. But once you make a decision to play for England that's pretty much it."
There has been plenty of criticism on social media and back in England of Bennett's decision to choose McQueen but the 29-year-old – who will bring up his 150th NRL appearance in Round 10 – said the England jersey will be worn with just as much pride as his six Queensland jerseys.
"The thing that people don't realise is that my dad was born and bred in England, he's a very proud Englishman and I grew up listening to stories of his childhood and growing up in England," adding that his England player number (either 730, 731 or 732 depending on the final line-up) will be added to his many tattoos in the off-season.
"To the people over there who don't know me and don't know my story and don't know my background, to them they just see an Australian-born player playing in their English team.
"I've grown up with an English father and it's not like I'm reaching back to grandparents or anything like that. It's my father, he was born there, he grew up there and I feel a strong connection to England.
"It's as if people don't understand that you can be proud of two heritages. I have two parents, I have two backgrounds and I'm equally as proud of both of them.
"This feels exactly the same as when I pulled on that Queensland jersey, now pulling on an England jersey."