Former St Helens prop James Graham furious at World Cup withdrawals

James Graham, who launched his Super League career at St Helens before moving to the NRL, has fired a verbal broadside at the decision of Australia and their neighbours New Zealand, to withdraw from this year's World Cup.

Monday, 26th July 2021, 12:58 pm
James Graham

The 35-year-old former England captain is furious - like all lovers of the sport - by the two countries pulling out of the competition at such short notice.

As organisers prepare to meet with the government to decide whether to press ahead with the tournament in England in the autumn without the big two, the backlash has continued on both sides of the world.

Australia and New Zealand attributed their decision to the worsening Covid-19 situation in the UK but the Rugby League Players' Association said it had been made prematurely.

Graham pointed out: “A survey suggested that 75 per cent of players were willing and able to go and represent their countries.''

He added: ''I’m speaking to people involved in the World Cup and they seem to have put all the correct biosecurity measures in place to help ensure it goes ahead but it seems to have been ignored.

“That’s what is making people angry back in England. It’s annoying me as well that they’re hiding behind Covid, when it has actually affected a lot of people around the world.''

The ex-Canterbury Bulldogs and St George Illawarra Dragons retired prop pointed to examples of the bosses Down Under making major events happen during the coronavirus era.

“We found a way to get Origin on because there’s a financial windfall and also found a way to get a competition on in Queensland and moved everyone because we understand the financial implications.''

The Speaker of the House of Commons and Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle has also brought up the issue in Parliament and the self-confessed Warrington Wolves' fan said he would be meeting tournament organisers to discuss the matter along with vaccines minister Nadhim Zahaw and other government officials.

“Looking at the reasons that have been cited and some of the tournaments that are going ahead, by saying player safety is that then saying that the governing bodies of the Wallabies and the All Blacks are not concerned about player safety?"