Former England captain James Graham says he does not expect to be part of Shaun Wane’s coaching team for a World Cup that England “has a great opportunity to win.”
The Sydney-based former St Helens, Canterbury and St George Illawarra prop reached the semi-finals with England in 2013. And he suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Australia in the 2017 final.
And speaking exclusively on The Big Interview on the Love Rugby League Podcast, Graham reveals he does not expect to be part of England’s coaching team for this year’s tournament despite being linked with a role alongside Wane.
“I think as far as I’m aware Shaun Wane’s backroom staff are all pretty settled so I can’t see anything like that happening,” he said.
“I’m talking with a few people about coming over in certain roles to be a part of the World Cup but that’s more generally speaking rather than with the England team.
“But there will be nobody wanting them to win more than me. It was a huge part of my life and it never really leaves you. I would be beyond delighted to see them lift that trophy. I just know the impact on the game it would have would be huge.”
England have a great opportunity
Graham will meet Wane in the next week during the England head coach’s trip to Australia. He admits he has been frustrated by England’s stop-start preparations in World Cup year but believes everything will come together in time for the tournament in October.
Graham said: “It’s a concern that England haven’t been able to get together and train properly yet.
“But when you are picking international teams you can’t really afford to pick them until the play-offs anyway to have an idea of who will be available.
“I don’t know Shaun Wane that well but I do know he never looks for excuses. He will just make up for it in other areas. I think on paper this team has a great opportunity to be the first England team to lift this World Cup in a long, long time.”
James Graham urges NRL to take World Cup seriously
Graham believes the NRL is taking this year’s World Cup “really seriously” and there will be no repeat of last year’s postponement.
Tournament organisers were forced to delay the competition by 12 months. Australia and New Zealand communicated their reluctance to travel in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
That move led to criticism of Australia’s top clubs for prioritising their club competition ahead of the international game. But former St George Illawarra and Canterbury forward Graham believes there will be no repeat of that no-show later this year. He is confident the event will go ahead at full strength.
“You’ve got to assume so,” he told Love Rugby League.
“I was disappointed last year. A tremendous amount of work went into that tournament but hey we have to move on. There is still the opportunity to make this World Cup have a lasting impact on a lot of people throughout Great Britain. We’re a sport that needs this exposure and needs more numbers involved n the game from community level to fans.
“The Rugby League World Cup is a fantastic opportunity to do that. Yes, it has been delayed and will clash slightly with the football World Cup but there is no reason for it not to be an excellent tournament. And for some people it will be their first experience and when they fall in love with the game.
“Over here (in Australia) it is full steam ahead and people are excited to represent their countries. Everyone is taking this World Cup really seriously.”