Toby King has opened up on the difficult decision to swap international allegiances from Ireland to England following his debut against France.
King, 26, first represented Ireland through his heritage in 2016, and featured in all three of their group fixtures at the delayed 2021 World Cup in England, winning four caps in total.
The centre has previously represented the Wolfhounds alongside brother George King, who led the side as captain at last year’s campaign under head coach Ged Corcoran.
However, King made the international switch after being called up by England head coach Shaun Wane for the mid-season international against France.
The Wigan outside-back featured in the centres at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in the 64-0 win, and admits it was a difficult conversation to have with Corcoran.
Toby King on international switch
“It really hurt me to do that,” King told Love Rugby League.
“I’ve had a lot of passion to play for Ireland and obviously my brother is the captain. I’ve got a lot of respect for Ged, it probably didn’t go down too well.
“But I felt it was a decision I had to make at that time. It wasn’t easy, because I love playing for Ireland, I’m proud and my family is proud to play for them.
“It still hurts now that I had to do that. But it’s one of those things, I guess. I do love my home country.”
King was called up to the Ireland squad in 2016 for their World Cup qualifiers, and later pulled out of the 2017 tournament due to injury.
In 2018, he was selected for England Knights on their tour of Papua New Guinea, and again represented the side against Jamaica in 2019 at Headingley Stadium.
He returned to the Ireland scene for the 2021 World Cup, featuring in group matches against Lebanon, New Zealand and Jamaica.
“I did it all professionally,” the 2020 Dream Team centre continued.
“I spoke with Ged well before and my brother, being captain. It was just one of those decisions I had to make at that time with the stage I’m at in my career and being on loan here at Wigan and not knowing what the future holds.
“It was tough because you want to grow the sport back home. Ireland has been really good for me and I loved playing for them.”
King on England debut
King, currently on loan at Wigan from Warrington for 2023, was one of 13 debutants for England against France in Warrington. He featured in the centres under Wane alongside current club team-mates Jake Wardle, Harry Smith, Ethan Havard, Kai Pearce-Paul and Morgan Smithies.
“It was class,” King said on his England debut.
“One of those things where I’m lucky enough to be born in England and have the heritage of Ireland. I’m proud to have both. But it was class to make my debut and be given a cap. It was a good day for me and my family.
“There’s a lot of good, English talent here [at Wigan]. Wigan have always been good supporting players, even for the mid-season tests.
“Matty [Peet, Wigan head coach] wants us all to go and do it. There were six or seven and he was disappointed there wasn’t even more.
“He loves it Matty and he was proud of the boys playing and hopefully there can be more next time.”