In an endorsement of his outstanding form in 2016, which has continuing into the start of the 2017 season, Sharks forward Chris Heighington has been named in a 20-man England squad to play Samoa on May 6.
Heighington, now 35 and who celebrated 300 NRL games when the Sharks played the Knights earlier this season, last played for England in 2011.
He is a part of a squad featuring players from both the NRL and the UK SuperLeague.
See following a press release announcing the England squad and full 20-man team list.
New faces in England squad for Samoa Test match
England Rugby League Head Coach Wayne Bennett has selected a 20-man squad for the Pacific Test match against Samoa at Campbelltown Stadium in Australia on Saturday May 6.
Mike McMeeken, Chris McQueen and Alex Walmsley have been called up to an England squad for the first time, while there are recalls for Zak Hardaker and Chris Heighington, who was last selected in 2011. Sean O’Loughlin will also return to the squad as Captain after missing the 2016 Four Nations tournament through injury.
McMeeken and Hardaker, who have helped take their club Castleford Tigers to the top of the Betfred Super League, will be joined by teammate Luke Gale, while England captain Sean O’Loughlin will be joined by Wigan Warriors teammate George Williams, who has recently signed a new four-year deal at the club. Walmsley will be joined in the squad by his St Helens teammate Mark Percival, another England star to recently commit his long-term future to his club.
McQueen, whose father is English, plays for the Gold Coast Titans in the NRL and will be joined in the squad by former South Sydney Rabbitohs teammates Sam and Thomas Burgess. Heighington last played for England in the 2011 Four Nations when he scored tries against Wales and Australia.
The squad, which is made up of 12 players from the Betfred Super League and eight from the NRL, will take on a Samoa team currently ranked fifth in the world.
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.”
Kevin Sinfield, Rugby Director at the Rugby Football League, said: “This squad has an exciting mix of power and pace and I am looking forward to watching them play in a few weeks’ time. We have a great group of players available for selection and I know that it was incredibly tough for Wayne to select only 20 for this squad.”
England squad for the Pacific Test Match against Samoa (professional and community club shown):
Sam Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Thomas Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers, Middleton Marauders)
James Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs, Blackbrook)
Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders)
Zak Hardaker (Castleford Tigers, Featherstone Lions)
Chris Heighington (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks, Umina Bunnies)
Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves, New Springs Lions)
Josh Hodgson (Canberra Raiders, East Hull)
Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants, Deighton Juniors)
Mike McMeeken (Castleford Tigers, Staines Titans)
Chris McQueen (Gold Coast Titans. Wynnum Manly Seagulls)
Sean O'Loughlin (C) (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Mark Percival (St Helens, Halton Farnworth Hornets)
Scott Taylor (Hull FC, Skirlaugh)
Alex Walmsley (St Helens, Dewsbury Celtic)
Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos, Latchford Albion)
Elliott Whitehead (Canberra Raiders, West Bowling)
Gareth Widdop (St. George Illawarra Dragons, King Cross)
George Williams (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)