Jamie Peacock has defended Wayne Bennett’s decision to select Australians Chris McQueen and Chris Heighington for England’s Test match against Samoa.
The two NRL stars were controversial inclusions in England’s final Test before the World Cup later this year and their inclusion has caused a backlash as a result.
The selection of Brisbane-born Chris McQueen caused the most discussion given he has never represented England before, despite being 29. McQueen, who plays for Gold Coast Titans, is eligible through his father, as is Heighington who has not played for England since 2011.
However, England’s team manager defended Bennett’s decision.
“I think there’s a real feel at the moment against globalisation so it’s no surprise to see it come into sport, too,” Peacock said.
“But the rules are the rules, so we can play by them. We’ve not been beating Australia and New Zealand so we need to find a way to change that. If they strengthen the side, then why not?
“Everyone else seems to use heritage players and the rules are there to be used. But it’s about strengthening your squad and not diluting it with too many heritage players because, yes, you still need to have a strong English core.”
Peacock also backed the decision to make England’s Super League-based players travel to Australia for the match, which will take place in Sydney on May 6th.
“When you play for England in any other sport you get to see the world and see some different destinations but we haven’t done that,” Peacock said. “It gives us a great build into the World Cup and a flavour of what it’s like to play in a Test match of that calibre. Playing France just would not have cut it this year in the run‑up to a World Cup.”