Wayne Bennett has selected Australia-born duo Chris Heighington and Chris McQueen in England’s 20-man squad to face Samoa in May.
The NRL duo are the first two Australian-based players to be selected by England following Bennett’s appointment, with McQueen getting his first ever international call-up at the age of 29.
Bennett had hinted that he would be open to selecting heritage players since becoming England’s head coach, with the Morris twins, Brett and Josh, and Trent Hodgkinson previously linked with a call-up.
But the versatile stars have now officially been called up, with Cronulla’s Heighington earning a recall following a six-year absence from the English setup.
McQueen, who plays in the NRL for Gold Coast Titans, is eligible for selection through his father, who is English. He played for Queensland in the 2013 and 2014 State of Origin and played for South Sydney Rabbitohs as they won the NRL Grand Final in 2014.
He is one of eight NRL players selected, with Sam and Tom Burgess among those selected.
England Head Coach, Wayne Bennett, said: “This is a strong squad that I believe has the talent to do well. The game against Samoa will be tough – they have some good players and plenty of spirit but this gives everyone in our squad the opportunity to show what they can do ahead of the World Cup.
“I’m very pleased that we have this chance to play mid-season. It gives the team a chance to work and spend time together and allows my coaching team and I the opportunity to take a closer look at how the players can rise to the challenge of playing against a tough and uncompromising opponent.
“There are some quality players left behind in England who have either just missed out or been ruled out through injury and this game enables me to look at some of those who haven’t been in the squad before.”
England squad to face Samoa: Sam Burgess, Thomas Burgess, Luke Gale, James Graham, Ryan Hall, Zak Hardaker, Chris Heighington, Chris Hill, Josh Hodgson, Jermaine McGillvary, Mike McMeeken, Chris McQueen, Sean O’Loughlin (C), Mark Percival, Scott Taylor, Alex Walmsley, Kallum Watkins, Elliott Whitehead, Gareth Widdop, George Williams.