‘Awesome’ experience for McMeeken with England

Mike McMeeken celebrates a try for Castleford with his England team-mate, Zak Hardaker.
Mike McMeeken celebrates a try for Castleford with his England team-mate, Zak Hardaker.

Emerging Castleford Tigers star Mike McMeeken has spoken about his pride in being chosen to make his debut for England in the one-off Test against Samoa.

McMeeken, who celebrated his 23rd birthday yesterday, made the transformation from Super League player to international when he started the game in Sydney and played a part in England’s 30-10 victory.

It was the Basingstoke man’s first involvement in the international set-up and he was delighted to have been handed his first cap.

He said: “It was an awesome experience to make my debut.

“Obviously being picked for the team is a massive honour.

“The camp has been awesome, it’s just what we needed before the World Cup. It’s just a big close group that’s good to be around.

“As soon as I got there, the likes of Sam (Burgess) and James (Graham) introduced themselves and they’re just one of the lads really, even though they’re great players. When we trained, everyone was on board.”

McMeeken is now hoping to follow-up by forcing his way into England’s World Cup squad, but accepts it will be difficult with some big competition for places in his back row position.

He added: “It would be massive to play in the World Cup, but I’ve got to make sure I do my best for my club. I’m analysing my game every week to spot areas of my game I can work on.”

England boss Wayne Bennett sees McMeeken as a big star of the future and admitted he was given more of a chance to impress than fellow debutant, the Australian-based Chris McQueen.

After the Samoa game, he said: “It was difficult for McQueen because I tried to give young McMeeken experience. He’s got a good a future ahead of him.

“I know what Chris brings and he plays in a tough comp every week, so that wasn’t a concern, my concern was getting McMeeken through.”

Bennett declared himself happy at the new half-back partnership of Castleford’s Luke Gale and Warrington’s Kevin Brown, with Gale kicking five goals and having a hand in several tries. He also brushed off criticisms of his selections, which included playing Cas full-back Zak Hardaker at centre.