England prop James Graham believes their Test match with New Zealand in Denver this weekend has the potential to be the start of something huge for international rugby league.
Graham and his fellow NRL team-mates in the England squad took a well-publicised stance on getting the game on this weekend. They issued a signed statement declaring their support for the game, and the former St Helens forward admits that any short-term pain that may have come in setting the game up can now begin to have a huge benefit on the sport moving forward.
“I’m a huge advocate for international rugby league and sometimes you’ve got to pay a price for that,” he said.
“It’s still a price worth paying though and we were very passionate about getting this game on and it has the potential to grow over the next three years. As a game, let’s think big.”
Graham is also excited to see how England can build on the success of reaching last year’s World Cup final in Australia in their first game back as a group since coming desperately close to glory.
“It was a strong campaign in the World Cup,” he said.
“We didn’t get the win but we built something that we want to continue on with as a group and you get that feel as soon as you come into camp about how everyone is feeling – and everyone around us can see how close we are.”
“When you speak to Australians now, we seem to have gained a lot of respect from the World Cup campaign and in particular from the final.”
The Kiwis head to Denver on the back of a disappointing World Cup themselves – but Graham has played down any talk of them being weaker than they have been in recent years.
He said: “There are some familiar faces there and everyone in that squad is top-quality. They’ll be coming to play and I’m sure they’ll be looking to start again with the new coach and some new players who are in there. It’ll be a tough ask for us.”