CASTLEFORD Tigers stand-off Rangi Chase, a former Junior Kiwi, is a shock addition to England’s train-on squad after switching his allegiance.
The 25-year-old Chase (pictured), who is on a three-man short-list for the 2011 Super League Man of Steel after an outstanding year with the Tigers, played against England for the New Zealand Maoris in Auckland on the eve of last year’s Four Nations Series.
But he qualifies for England under the residency ruling, having been with Castleford for the last three seasons, and is now set to line up against the country of his birth in the 2011 Gillette Four Nations.
“I have thought long and hard about the opportunity of playing for England after I became eligible to play,” said Chase, who last week signed a new contract that will keep him at Castleford to the end of 2015.
“I approached Steve McNamara and explained that I wanted to play for England and, more importantly, show my commitment.
“England, and in particular Castleford, is my home now and I want to lay my long-term roots here.
“I have an English girlfriend and signing a new contract with Castleford last week was a big deal for me. I don’t want to play anywhere else.
“I have resurrected my life in England and feel more at ease here than anywhere else in the world. I spend all my time at home and don’t go back to New Zealand in the off season.
“Getting selected for England will be my greatest honour. You can feel there is something special being built and I want to do everything I can to help England achieve international success.”
Chase will join up with the train-on squad this week as preparations continue for England’s game against France in Avignon on Friday, October 21 and their opening Four Nations game against Wales a week later.
“It’s excellent news that Rangi wants to play for England and commit his long-term future to our international programme,” said McNamara.
“I have met with Rangi and he has shown to me that he is totally committed in playing for England and he can’t wait to be part of our plans.
“It is exciting news that we have a player of Rangi’s quality available to us.
“His presence will enhance the elite training squad and will add great competition for places, especially in the crucial half-back role.”
The selection of Chase is certain to spark renewed controversy over the eligibility process.
McNamara named Hull’s Tonga international forward Willie Manu in his train-on squad two years ago, although he did not make the final cut, while he has included Australia-born forward Chris Heighington in his Four Nations party and made an unsuccessful attempt to lure Manly’s exciting half-back Daly Cherry-Evans.
The Rugby Football League say they are in the process of finalising documentation to present to the International Federation to demonstrate his eligibility.
Chief executive Nigel Wood said: “The RFL want to give Steve McNamara the greatest opportunity to select the best players available to him - that’s vitally important if we are going to progress on the international stage.
“There is no change of policy. We remain committed to increasing the quantity and quality of club-trained talent and our commitment to programmes like the elite training squad is undiminished.
“Like many of our competitors, we want to develop squad depth and competition for places and the inclusion of Rangi in the train-on squad alongside the other quality players we have brought in recently can only benefit England against the best teams in the world.”
Tigers chief executive Richard Wright has welcomed today’s announcement that Chase has been called up for England.
Wright said: “I firmly believe that an international series win has got to be of priority for the game in this country and we need to do whatever we can within the rules to make this happen,” said Wright.
“Rangi is clearly eligible for England on residency grounds and he has committed to living in the country long term by signing for an additional four seasons in Super League with us. By the end of his contract he will have lived in the country in which he established himself as a top player for over seven years.
“Winning the Four Nations this year would give Rugby League in this country a huge lift and the addition of Rangi – in my opinion the best all round player in Super League - can only increase our chances.
“He’s a player we saw global interest in before he signed his new contract last week. One of Rangi’s main concerns during negotiations was whether or not he could play internationally with the club.
“Today’s news confirms he can and also sends a clear message to our young talents that their International dreams can become reality whilst playing for Cas.”