Dragons signing Graham to lead England World Cup charge

Thumbs up: James Graham. Picture: AAP Image/Daniel Munoz

Thumbs up: James Graham. Picture: AAP Image/Daniel Munoz

James Graham has already slayed the Dragons to end their NRL finals dream. 

Now he’ll wear the cross of St George, intent on bringing down Australia in what will almost certainly be his last shot at winning a World Cup. 

Yet to wear the Red V after signing a three-year deal, the former Bulldogs captain is the most experienced member of England’s squad announced on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old will combine with St George Illawarra captain Gareth Widdop and England coach Wayne Bennett, with their opening game against the Kangaroos in Melbourne on October 27.

After missing out on the final four years ago, England are looming as Australia’s biggest threat, after Jason Taumalolo, Manu Ma'u, David Fusita and Sio Siua Taukeiaho declared allegiance to Tonga, instead of New Zealand. England are also motivated by missing out on last year’s four Nations final, won by Australia. 

“The competitiveness of Super League and NRL and knowing the goal of playing for your country in a World Cup has made many raise their game and become better athletes,” Bennett said. “The England program has been very active leading into this tournament and having the squad meet up on regular occasions – on and off the field – has put us in a positive place before everyone gets into camp.

“We had to put the disappointment of the Four Nations behind us quickly and the meetings that followed that tournament set out what was required to be successful in the World Cup. Everyone has fully bought into this and we can’t wait to get started.”

Needing to win in the final round to play finals, the Dragons went down 26-20 to Canterbury in Graham’s farewell game. Incoming Dragons playmaker Ben Hunt, forward Tyson Frizell and Cronulla-bound fullback and centre Josh Dugan are part of the Australian squad.

Gareth Widdop

Gareth Widdop

England's James Graham sits dejected amongst New Zealand players at the end of their Four Nations semi-final last year. Picture: Dave Howarth / PA via AP

England's James Graham sits dejected amongst New Zealand players at the end of their Four Nations semi-final last year. Picture: Dave Howarth / PA via AP