Canterbury NRL captain James Graham has spoken of his pride at becoming England’s most-capped player.
The former St Helens skipper reached the milestone in England’s 26-12 first Test win over New Zealand in Hull on Sunday and will win his 28th cap in the second game at the Olympic Stadium in London on Saturday.
The recently-retired Adrian Morley still holds the overall record for most caps by an Englishman with 53 combined appearances for Great Britain and England but Graham has now overtaken Kevin Sinfield’s total of 26 England caps.
“I wasn’t made aware of it until yesterday,” Graham said at the England training base.
“It’s something I’m obviously happy about but I understand the crossover between England and Great Britain.
“I imagine it won’t stand for too long. It will probably be overtaken soon.”
The 30-year-old has become an invaluable member of the England pack since making his debut in the 2008 World Cup and was one of their most impressive performers at the KC Stadium.
“It’s a great achievement,” said England coach Steve McNamara. “James is hugely important to us. It’s evident for everyone to see and I’ll be looking for James to contribute massively again this week.”
Graham, who was in the Great Britain team that routed the Kiwis 3-0 in 2007, is delighted to be in a position to repeat the feat with England.
“Before the tournament started, the goal was to win the series,” he said.
“We did a job on Sunday and we’re presented with an opportunity to win it on Saturday.
“I guess this is the position that we wanted to be in but we understand it’s going to require a lot of hard work if we are going to get the job done.”
Just 5,000 of the 49,500 tickets remain for Saturday’s first rugby league game to be played at the Olympic Stadium while the third Test at Wigan a week later is also close to being sold out.
Meanwhile, McNamara has hinted that he may tinker with his team as they look to secure the series with a game to spare.
“Consistency in selection is always important if possible,” he said.
“But at the same time, you have to look thoroughly at the game and see areas of improvement – that’s on the training field or in reviewing the game – and whether any changes in personnel that may improve the team. There is a balance to be struck.
“We’ve the usual bumps and bruises after a very physical game and I really want to see how people are as it’s a short turnaround for both teams going into this game.
“I’ve some thoughts and ideas on it but I want to check a few things.”
The Sydney Roosters assistant coach said he doesn’t anticipate any difficulties adjusting to a change in referee, with NRL whistleblower Gerard Sutton taking over from Englishman Ben Thaler as part of a rotation process.
“I don’t think it will have too much impact,” he said.
“You play to the rules and you play to the style of the referee.”