England rugby league coach Wayne Bennett says St George Illawarra prop James Graham is an ideal stand-in skipper for the rest of the series against New Zealand.
Coach Wayne Bennett says Sean O’Loughlin is “touch and go” for the rest of England’s Test series against New Zealand but believes his team could not be in better hands than those of NRL star James Graham.
St George Illawarra Dragons prop Graham was the obvious choice to take over the captaincy for Sunday’s (Monday 1:30am AEDT) second Test at Liverpool FC’s Anfield stadium when the talismanic O’Loughlin was ruled out with the long-standing calf injury aggravated in the early stages of the 18-16 first Test win over the Kiwis in Hull.
Fellow NRL big gun Sam Burgess led England in O’Loughlin’s absence in the World Cup final in December but is missing from the series due to injury and Graham stepped in as captain for the international against France a fortnight ago.
The 33-year-old is the most-capped player in the England squad with 42 appearances.
And Brisbane Broncos boss Bennett said on Thursday. “With Sam not here, James was a pretty straightforward choice.
“There’s not many more passionate Englishmen.”
Veteran Australian Bennett has also brought Castleford loose forward Adam Milner into his 19-man squad.
St Helens prop Luke Thompson is poised to make his first start after filling the void so impressively as a substitute last Saturday.
Milner, who made his Test debut as a substitute in the 44-6 win over the French, got the nod ahead of Wigan second rower Joe Greenwood, in the only change to the side that drew first blood in the three-match series.
“I like his enthusiasm,” Bennett said. “He tries extremely hard with everything he does.”