JAMES Graham says England must step up their game if they are to compete with Australia on Saturday.
The NRL-bound St Helens prop was a key man for Steve McNamara’s side as they steamrollered Wales in their opening match of the Gillette Four Nations Series.
But a Lee Briers-inspired Wales, which included eight part-time players, made England work hard for their victory at Leigh Sports Village, leaving Graham in no doubt they must improve ahead of Saturday’s crunch game.
“I think we did all right,” Graham said.
“We’ve definitely got some improvements in us. We made some uncharacteristic errors, but I’m sure we’ll fix that up in the next two weeks.
“Wales definitely turned up ready to play, they weren’t messing around. I thought Briers was outstanding, and their forwards certainly ran it tough.
“I think we performed a lot better than last week.
“I’d say we’re on the right path, although we’re under no illusion that next week is going to be more than just a step up.
“We’re going to have to be really on our game if we are going to compete.”
Tomkins gave England the perfect start with his first try within a minute of the kick-off after Wales lost possession – as well as experienced forward Jordan James with concussion – in the opening tackle of the match.
England were 14-0 up at the break, and took advantage of a tiring defence to run in five tries in the second half.
McNamara’s latest NRL recruits, Jack Reed and Chris Heighington, were among the try scorers, and Graham, who will soon be joining them in Australia as he gears up for a move to Canterbury Bulldogs, is delighted with their impact so far.
With Wests Tigers forward Gareth Ellis and Melbourne Storm’s Gareth Widdop also in the side, England will not be short of inside knowledge on their opponents in the build-up to Saturday’s game.
“They’re all great players and I suppose, playing in the competition week-in week-out, this week they’ll probably be a big help,” Graham added.
“Gaz Ellis was great for us last year in the build-up to the Four Nations.
“The thing that they bring is quality. They are not in the squad just because they’re playing over there, they’re excelling in that competition.”
Graham will be able to provide a few tips on playing at the national stadium, having been a member of the St Helens team that lifted the Challenge Cup at Wembley in 2007 and 2008.
But only Warrington’s evergreen forward Adrian Morley knows what it is like to play international rugby league there.
He was a youthful second-rower in the Great Britain team that lost 38-14 to the Kangaroos in the opening match of the 1997 Super League Test series in front of a 41,135 crowd.
“Apart from Moz, it’s a whole new generation,” said Graham.
“I remember Jonathan Davies going over for a try at Wembley and someone getting sent off.
“Obviously playing at Wembley is huge. It means a lot to everyone and I imagine it means a lot to Australian players as well.
“As players it’s something you want to tick off your list.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been there but it’s a fantastic place to play rugby league.”