Graham: I have to keep the standard

James Graham at England training
James Graham at England training

Former Saint James Graham says competition for front row places in the England is fierce ... and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jammer, who at 32 remains one of the world’s best prop forwards, was looking ahead to the World Cup in his adopted homeland, Australia.

James Graham. England Rugby Training Session from McGilvray Oval, Perth, Western Australia. Rugby League World Cup 2017. 17th October 2017. Copyright Image: Daniel Carson / www.photosport.nz COPYRIGHT PICTURE mandatory credit Daniel Carson/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ

James Graham. England Rugby Training Session from McGilvray Oval, Perth, Western Australia. Rugby League World Cup 2017. 17th October 2017. Copyright Image: Daniel Carson / www.photosport.nz COPYRIGHT PICTURE mandatory credit Daniel Carson/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ

“I am very passionate about playing for my country and it is a jersey I want to hold on to so I guess I have got to try to cement my spot in the squad,” Graham said.

“There is a lot of competition for spots in those middle forwards so I have got to keep a standard of playing that Wayne and the rest of the staff think is deserving of that England jersey.”

After playing under Bennett during last year’s Four Nations, Graham believes he is the man to guide England to World Cup success and said the seven times premiership coach commands respect from the players.

Despite failing to make the Four Nations final, Graham said the focus had been on building towards the World Cup and there were some positive signs during the tournament.

“It was a really great experience to work under Wayne,” he said. “I was excited, I was nervous about the prospect of it and I took a lot from him.

“Unfortunately the results didn’t go our way but we only lost to New Zealand by a point and I think in the Australian game we showed patches of what we can do.

“Afterwards Wayne spoke about his level of commitment to us and moving us forward and developing us as players and as a team.

“I think Wayne would have got a good idea of some of the players who were involved in the camp and I am looking forward to him developing us and fixing up a few areas he thinks we need to improve and hopefully going on to bigger and better things.”

First up is the Test against Samoa, which will involve up to 12 players from Super League, and then the World Cup in October and November.

England play Australia in the opening game of the tournament in Melbourne on November 27, followed by matches against Lebanon in Sydney on November 4 and France in Perth on November 12.

“Obviously with club football people are very passionate but then you come together in the national team and you have a big influence on a hell of a lot of people in terms of how they view rugby league,” Graham said.

“There are a lot of very passionate fans back home and I guess moving away from England has made me realise that.

“With the World Cup here in Australia and New Zealand I know that there will be plenty of fans on what is literally the trip of a life time to watch their national side play in a World Cup tournament so it would be pretty cool to be a part of that.”