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19th June 2018, 10:44 | membership
Passionate football fan James Graham was living every kick just like his fellow English comrades, as the Three Lions kicked off their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign off with a last-gasp win over Tunisia yesterday.
The prop, alongside his team-mates, watched England’s opener during the recovery day, as Wayne Bennett’s men shape up to take on New Zealand in Denver on Saturday.
And Graham, a veteran of three Rugby League World Cups, knows exactly the type of pressure on Gareth Southgate’s men were under as they opened their account with the three points.
“From my World Cup experiences, the first game is always huge with all the nervous energy and emotions going on in the camp,” he said.
“I’m sure that getting the win in the fashion they did at the end, because it was a close game, the whole mood of the camp will be so much more positive than if they had come away with a draw.
“It was nervous watching there, just being an England fan is hard work! I was delighted to see us get the first three points and hopefully that’s a stepping stone to get out of the group.”
Touching down in the States on Sunday, Graham is thrilled to be back amongst his England team-mates for the first time since their own strong World Cup showing last autumn.
After coming so close to glory in Brisbane in December, Graham sees this week as a further chance for the squad to continue to grow as they prepare to face another of the sports’ colossal forces in New Zealand at the Mile High Stadium on Saturday.
He said: “The first day in camp has been good, it has been good to see some familiar faces and good to meet some of the new lads as well.
“It was a strong World Cup campaign, and even though we didn’t get the win, we’ve built something that we want to continue on with as a group and you get that feeling as soon as you get into camp of how all the boys are feeling. Everyone that’s around can see how close we are.
“When you speak to Australians, we seem to have gained a lot of respect from the World Cup campaign, especially the performance in the final.”
The 32-year-old is one of the most experienced players in camp and is set to win his 40th England cap at the weekend, as he will become the first player to wear the Gold Lion on his jersey.
A massive advocate of the sport on a global level, the St George Illawara Dragons prop is delighted that the ground-breaking test against the Kiwis was given the green light, after initially being met with scepticism earlier in the year.
The former St Helens man added: “I’m a huge advocate for International Rugby League and sometimes you’ve got to pay a price for that but it’s a price worth paying.
“We are very passionate about getting this game on and I think it does have the potential to grow here and for me on a personal level, it is always something that fills me with immense pride.”
Watch the England v New Zealand Test from the Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver live on BBC Two from 9pm this Saturday.