England ‘striving for excellence’

James Graham insists England are ‘striving for excellence’ as they make their final preparations for Saturday’s World Cup semi-final showdown with New Zealand.

The former St Helens prop, now two years into a three-year deal with Cantebury Bulldogs, was a key performer against France in last week’s quarter-final.

He said: “There’s always room for improvement. We’re striving for excellence and perfection because you always want to try and improve.

“We’re in the semis and we wanted to do that. The performances have been relatively good and hopefully something we can build on this week.

“Rugby league is a hard game and sometimes from the outside looking in it can look a lot easier than what it is.

“People have commented about us scoring tries in bursts of 10 to 15 minutes, and when you do that it maybe sets expectations a little bit high.”

He added: “Concentration is a massive thing and the scenario of the game is going to be different as well.

“With all due respect to France, sometimes if you establish a lead it can affect your decision-making.

“I can only presume that the scenarios on Saturday are going to be different.”

Graham is one of the survivors from England’s 2008 World Cup campaign, when they lost to the Kiwis in a semi-final in Brisbane.

But he is adamant that revenge will not come into his thinking on Saturday.

“It was five years ago so I don’t remember too much. I remember feeling very disappointed at going out.

“Every time your season finishes on a sour note you’re going to feel huge disappointment.

“We put a lot of effort in and we had a really good team then. Our expectation in 2008 was that we wanted to go and win the thing and we didn’t, so it was obviously very disappointing.

“But we’re not looking at it like there’s unfinished business. It was a different squad then to what it is now, so it’s not even come into my thought process.”

Graham, who has been subject of rumours linking him with a return to Super League and a switch to Warrington, is off contract with the Bulldogs in 12 months time.

And while he won’t rule out a return to the UK at some point in the future, he confirmed that he is hoping to stay in Australia beyond next year.

“Going to the NRL was probably always an ambition of mine since I was 15 or 16, when I started to take rugby really seriously.

“I definitely wouldn’t ever rule out coming back to play in Super League. I’m off contract at the end of next year, but it’s something that hopefully will get sorted out so I can stay (with Canterbury).”

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