Local knowledge can lift England

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Published: Saturday 1st November 2014 by The News Editor

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Former St Helens skipper James Graham believes the increasing English presence in the NRL can bear fruit as Steve McNamara’s men go in search of a first Four Nations title.

Even without the departed Sam Burgess, soon to be plying his trade in rugby union’s Aviva Premiership with Bath, there will be no shortage of inside knowledge when England take on Australia in Melbourne on Sunday and New Zealand in Dunedin next Saturday.

Sam’s twin brothers George and Tom are still with South Sydney, one-time Wigan favourite Sam Tomkins is a year into his contract with New Zealand Warriors, Halifax-born Gareth Widdop is the man pulling the strings at St George Illawarra and, of course, Graham is fresh from a heroic performance in a losing cause for Canterbury Bulldogs in the NRL Grand Final.

Even more crucially, McNamara himself is acutely familiar with the opposition courtesy of his role as assistant coach at Sydney Roosters, which makes a nonsense of criticism from the Australian media of supposed ignorance of potential new cap Ben Hunt on the part of Huddersfield second-rower Brett Ferres.

Graham insists England have all the knowledge they need and that their NRL experience can help them reach their first final Down Under.

“It helps,” Graham said. “I know what it’s like to come up against a (Greg) Inglis or a (Shaun) Johnson.

“Steve McNamara has been in the Australian system for 12 months and that definitely helps when it comes to the preparation side of things.

“We can pass that experience on to the other players.”

From his close-up experience, Graham is convinced England have what it takes to make a big impact in the tournament.

“They are great players, don’t get me wrong, but they are human after all and they do make mistakes,” he added.

New Zealand’s 14-12 win over Samoa on Saturday morning means Australia will be unable to reach the November 15 final in Wellington if they lose to McNamara’s men on Sunday.

Published: Saturday 1st November 2014 by The News Editor

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