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Heighington defends English selection

England international Chris Heighington has been forced to again defend his selection in the side's upcoming clash with Samoa on Saturday.

The 35-year-old was recalled to the English setup under Wayne Bennett after making his international debut back in 2011.

Heighington joined his new teammates including Gold Coast Titans back-rower Chris McQueen for their first training session on Australian shores in Coogee on Tuesday.

Bennett's decision to choose Heighington and McQueen despite the duo not born in England has raised a few eyebrows within the Australian camp in recent months. 

Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith labelled the prospect of former Queensland teammate McQueen's selection as "weird" back in October, while others have insisted the depth in England must be at an all-time low for Australian-based players to be picked.

"It's peoples opinions so I'm not really worried about that, I've been selected and everyone is proud of me in my family so that's all I can do is play well for them," Heighington said.

"I don't think it's a depth issue, every country is doing it and there are probably a few in the Australian team vice versa so not sure why we always get the criticism we do.

"All my family come over from up North of England, there is a Heighington village where dad grew up so there is a good bloodline there.

"I watch a bit of the Super League and they've got a few good players getting around so Wayne's picked me for a reason, I'm not sure why but I'm just going to go out and play well for him."

England suffered a blow losing in-form five-eighth Gareth Widdop for the clash against Samoa with a knee injury after a strong start to the season for St George Illawarra.

Heighington admitted with a number of players flying in for the Pacific Test match over the last three days, their preparation has so far been a rushed one.

"We had our first training session today with the boys and I really enjoyed it. A few other boys flew in last night so they'll train tomorrow.

"It's disappointing to lose a guy like Gareth through injury but that’s rugby league and now those new guys have got an opportunity.

"[Samoa] have got an unreal team, every player has NRL experience and their forward pack plays with a lot of passion.

"The game is probably what we need going into the World Cup and a lot of the boys have got to get over here to get a game under their belt."

The future of the 300-gamer has been in the spotlight regularly in the last eight weeks with the veteran off-contract at the end of the season. 

Heighington was coy on whether the 2017 Rugby League World Cup could be the last hurrah in what has been an illustrious career.

"It's a very popular [topic] to see if I'm retiring but at the moment I'm enjoying my footy and the body is good," Heighington said.

"I know it's a cliché but each week is a long time in footy and that's how I've been for a while now taking it how it comes. 

"It's just good to be around a talented group, its different to turning up each week [for the Sharks] and seeing the same people so for me now I get to meet new people.

"I'm honoured to play again, my form has been okay and we've been winning games. Hopefully I can play as hard as I can and earn some respect that way."

Heighington indicated English forward James Graham is expected to be fit to play after receiving the all clear from doctors after a head knock in Canterbury's 16-10 loss to the Raiders at the weekend. 


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