Former Saints prop James Graham is relishing the opportunity to lead out his country as England prepare to take on France in an International Test at Leigh Sports Village tonight (Wednesday).
The St George Illawarra Dragons player, who will win his 41st England cap this week, always wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to representing his nation, and the prop isn’t hiding his pride in getting to captain his country again.
He said: “I only got the news that I’d be captaining on Tuesday morning. Obviously I’m very proud and I’ve reflected on the kind of players that have worn the armband before me.
“Even though I have done it before, it is an indescribable feeling to explain to people what it means to lead out your country.”
With the combination of injury withdrawals and player unavailability after Saturday’s Betfred Super League Grand Final, coach Wayne Bennett has named an inexperienced squad for the France Test. Eight players are in line to win their first international caps.
Graham, now 33, is the most senior player in the matchday squad and has been willing to share his experiences with the rookies in camp.
“I’m always available to the young lads,” Graham said. “We got together as forwards after training and had a little bit of a chat and talked about what’s required and to not get overawed by the occasion.
“It takes a little bit of time to get to know the new faces in the group but it’s always the good thing about coming into camp, that you get to know people that you’ve only ever seen play on TV.
“For a lot of lads, playing for their country is their ultimate goal as a professional, so it’s important that they keep playing the way they have done, which has got them in the position they are.”
One player that Graham is particularly delighted to get his first chance in an England jersey is St Helens fellow prop Luke Thompson.
The 23-year-old was selected by Wayne Bennett for June’s New Zealand Test, although he was England’s 18th man for the Test in Denver.
Graham said: “Luke was unfortunate not to play in Denver but that’s sport. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he takes to it and I’m really looking forward to playing beside him.
“He’s up there among the best front rowers in the world as far as I’m concerned and I’m looking forward to taking the field with him.”
Supporters will also be able to watch the game live on the Our League app and website.