Chris McQueen's controversial inclusion in the England team has sparked a backlash.
Chris McQueen's controversial inclusion in the England team has sparked a backlash. Ryan Pierse

League legend takes aim at Bennett over Test team line-up

RUGBY LEAGUE: Great Britain legend Garry Schofield has called for Wayne Bennett to be sacked as national coach as three English stars will fly 30,000km to sit in the stands at Campbelltown Stadium this weekend.

Schofield, now an outspoken pundit after playing a record 46 Tests for Great Britain, has unleashed in a scything Twitter tirade at Bennett's call-up of "plastic Poms" Chris McQueen and Chris Heighington for Saturday's clash with Samoa.

McQueen is set to make his international debut after being named in Bennett's updated 17-man squad to face a Samoa outfit led by Broncos Anthony Milford and Josh McGuire, with Heighington also included on the bench having not played for the mother country since 2011.

Bennett's selections means St Helens pair Alex Walmsley and Mark Percival, and Hull FC's Scott Taylor will travel halfway round the world and back without seeing a minute of game time.

Schofield has been a staunch critic of the heritage player policy that has been touted since Bennett took England's top job, which prompted the English media to dub the likes of McQueen, Heighington, Trent Hodkinson and Blake Austin "plastic Poms".

The former national skipper blew up deluxe at Bennett's latest contentious call, declaring his team selection an "absolute joke" that brings "English rugby league into disrepute".

In a series of Tweets on Friday morning Schofield called for Bennett to be sacked following the Samoan fixture and replaced by Castleford coach Daryl Powell in time for the end-of-season World Cup campaign.

The selections of McQueen and Heighington have raised eyebrows at both ends of the rugby league world and are at odds with comments made in December by Bennett's employer, Rugby Football League boss Nigel Wood.

"It would be self-defeating if we drag in players who in future would be on the periphery of the international team," Wood said five months ago when asked about Australian players with English heritage being picked for the Samoa clash.

 

Wayne Bennett has been criticised for including
Wayne Bennett has been criticised for including "plastic Poms” in the England Test team. MICK TSIKAS

Bennett has endured a rocky relationship with figures in the English game since taking over the national side at the start of last year.

The veteran coach faced staunch opposition from Super League clubs when angling for this weekend's friendly against the Pacific nation, with club bosses reluctant to release players for a fixture that amounts to a World Cup warm-up.

A compromise was reached with no more than three players per English franchise being picked in Bennett's 20-man squad but the decision to sit out three travelling players for the locally-based McQueen and Heighington won't win the 67-year-old any friends in the UK.

Both McQueen and Heighington, who have represented Queensland and NSW City Origin respectively, have defended their selections citing connections through their English fathers.

Bennett pushed hard for England's inclusion on Saturday's Pacific Test billing and hailed the midyear Test as a critical element in his preparations for November's Word Cup.

"It's been a really invaluable experience for all and essential to have all players here to prepare for what's to come at the end of the year," Bennett said.

"It's vital that the group spend time together and that I spend time with all the players during World Cup year.

"Some tough decisions were made when picking this team but this eight-day camp has been fantastic, the commitment shown has been second to none.

"Being over here bridges the gap between not playing for long periods as a national team and gives us an opportunity to sort out little issues which will enable us to hit the ground running in October."

England: Stefan Ratchford (Warrington), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield), Kallum Watkins (Leeds), Zak Hardaker (Castleford), Ryan Hall (Leeds), Kevin Brown (Warrington), Luke Gale (Castleford), Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs), Josh Hodgson (Raiders), James Graham (Bulldogs), Mike McMeeken (Castleford), Elliott Whitehead (Raiders), Sean O'Loughlin (Wigan, c). Interchange: Chris Hill (Warrington), Chris Heighington (Sharks), Chris McQueen (Titans), Tom Burgess (Rabbitohs).

News Corp Australia


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