Graham Return A Boost For England
Ahead of their do-or-die clash against Australia on Monday morning (AEDT), England have welcomed news of the return of inspirational leader James Graham.
The Canterbury-Bankstown prop sat out England's 38-12 victory over Scotland last week with a small medial tear in his knee, but is a certainty to return for the match, which the host nation must draw or win in order to qualify for the Four Nations final.
Fellow front-rower George Burgess said Graham's leadership and passion for the jersey would be a key factor if England are to upset the world champions at the Olympic Stadium in London.
"James is playing, he has trained well this week and has done well to get back from his knee injury," Burgess said.
"He is [a big boost], he is one of our leaders and he wears his heart on his sleeve.
"We all love playing with him."
Graham was among the host nation's best performers in their opening match of the tournament against the Kiwis in Huddersfield, running for 206 metres and making 36 tackles across 55 minutes on the park.
After Scotland rallied to secure an historic 18-all draw with New Zealand in Workington on Saturday morning (AEDT), England now know a draw or victory will guarantee them a spot in the November 20 final at Anfield in Liverpool.
While he admitted he was pleased to see Scotland get a result against the Kiwis, who are England's major competition in the race for a final berth, Burgess said it changed little from his side's point of view.
"I think whatever happened we needed to win this game tomorrow, so we have always been thinking about that and looking forward to it," Burgess said.
"It was good to see Scotland be competitive as a fourth nation, something we have been longing for for a long time with this Four Nations competition.
"It is good to see they are competing, they competed against us last week and they really competed last night against New Zealand."
Meanwhile Lions centre Kallum Watkins said a dose of tough love from coach Wayne Bennett following last week's disappointing performance against Scotland had set the tone for a positive week in the England camp.
"I think the week has been great in terms of our preparation," Watkins said.
"The game [against Scotland] was pretty disappointing performance-wise but we managed to get the result. Everything we had to work on was put right this week.
"There was some honesty there which helps the team across [the board] in allowing us to achieve our best performance this week."
This article first appeared on NRL.com