McQueen selection drama
Rugby league: Gold Coast Titans forward and former Kingaroy Red Ant Chris McQueen has slammed outside criticism over Wayne Bennett's decision to select him for England's Test match against Samoa tomorrow.
McQueen will make his first appearance in the red and white since defecting to the 'old enemy' and will become the first player to have played State of Origin as well as in a Test for England.
The 29-year-old - who will leave the Titans to join Wests Tigers next season on a deal rumoured to be worth $800,000 a season - qualifies to play for England because his father Kevin was born there.
"People don't necessarily know my background and want to jump to conclusions,” McQueen told The Courier Mail.
"The outside world can have their opinions but as long as the other players in the organisation are supportive and welcoming, that's the only thing that matters.
"I'm sure they will see what it means to me, my family and how proud I am. They will understand why I want to play for England so bad.”
The outside world McQueen mentioned includes British media, who were quick to pounce on Bennett's decision to select McQueen and Cronulla Sharks prop Chris Heighington ahead of Wigan's in-form forward Liam Farrell.
"The selection of Chris McQueen is sure to raise eyebrows,” BBC Sport's Dave Woods wrote, while Paul Clarke of the Daily Mail said McQueen's selection "just shouldn't be an option for Bennett”.
Irrespective of the public furore, once McQueen steps out against Samoa at Campbelltown tomorrow he will no longer be eligible to play for the Maroons or Australia - a decision Bennett said proves McQueen's commitment to playing for England.
For McQueen, who played six consecutive Origin matches for the Maroons in 2013-14, being overlooked at the selection table during last year's series was the writing on the wall.
"With all the suspensions and injuries around Origin time last year, to not get a look-in was the realisation that ship has probably sailed,” McQueen said.
"What really hit home with me was how proud my dad was when I called him and told him I was going to play for England.”
McQueen is one of eight NRL players in Bennett's 20-man squad and will play alongside former South Sydney teammates Sam and Thomas Burgess.
England captain Sam came to McQueen's defence this week, as did some of his Titans teammates.
The backlash is unlikely to affect McQueen's preparation ahead of tomorrow's clash, and a strong showing would go a long way towards endearing himself to English fans.