THERE’S A big controversy in the game at the moment about who should – or shouldn’t – be eligible to play for England this year.
We have now got an Australian coach, Wayne Bennett, who works in the NRL and it seems he is keen on getting players from there to play for England in this year’s Four Nations and the 2017 World Cup.
Tony Smith, the Warrington coach, has come out and said he isn’t sure that is the right way to go about things.
I can see where he is coming from and I share his concerns.
It has happened in the past. We’ve had overseas players who qualify for England through their grandparents and Maurie Fa’asavalu and Rangi Chase got in because they’d lived here a certain amount of time.
But now it looks like players who don’t really have a connection with England are being offered the chance and that can’t be right.
Speaking as an Englishman, who is proud to have played for his country, I want to keep it English.
The players on duty for the national team have to be there for the right reasons, because they want to play for England.
There’s lots of rumours around at the moment about Aussie-based players being asked if they are interested or putting their hand up and I think the sooner it’s nipped in the bud and we find out exactly what is happening, the better it will be for everybody.
We all want to know what they are looking for and who is eligible.
The most disappointing thing will be if English players, who are playing well for their club, miss out.
We have got players who are in form and can do a job for the national team and it will be wrong if they don’t get the opportunity to feature on the biggest stage.
There’s a plethora of young English players coming through and playing to a decent standard and it will be a shame if they miss out on playing for England at the end of the year because an Aussie-based player, who might not be that bothered about pulling the jersey on, gets the nod first.
You might say that’s the way things happen nowadays, but that doesn’t make it right.
When I was coming through Jamie Peacock was in the England squad and he was really patriotic about wanting to play for England.
That rubbed off on everybody in the camp.
As a kid I used to watch England or Great Britain playing Test matches on the BBC and it was a dream to do that one day.
Pulling the shirt on for the first time and singing the national anthem was a highlight of my career.
It doesn’t sit right with me that Aussies can decide for whatever reason they don’t want to play for Australia, so they’ll put their hand up for England instead.
As an Englishman I would prefer to see English born and bred players in there.
I think we’ve got enough of those to pick a squad from and it will devalue it if we finally beat Australia in a series with a team full of Australians.
We don’t need to go down that route.
There’s a World Cup next year and I think we can send a strong squad over to that with a real chance of getting to the final and winning it.
The eligibility rules need sorting out.
International rugby league is really important, but players swapping from one country to another could make it a bit of a laughing stock.
Once you play for one country, you shouldn’t be allowed to change your mind and represent another.
We see it happening with players from the South Sea Islands, who switch allegiances to Australia.
I think that’s a shame because it weakens their home nation and it’s not as if Australia are short of players themselves.
I am proud to have played for England and I’d like to think I might get the chance again, but that’s not something that’s high on my agenda.
I’ve had a tough year with injuries and it hasn’t been the best season for the team.
At the moment my priority is on getting fit, staying fit and playing well for Rhinos.
We have got seven crucial games coming up, beginning at Featherstone tomorrow.
We have to be switched on and all my focus is on helping us get through this tough period, then whatever comes off that is a bonus.