England bolstered by NRL influx
Buoyed by England's recent series win over New Zealand, star prop James Graham says the additional exposure of English talent in the NRL in 2016 will only aid their bid for a maiden Four Nations title on home soil.
The 2016 Four Nations tournament will be contested by England, Australia, New Zealand and Scotland next October in England and Scotland with the English a chance to relegate Australia to third in the world rankings should they emerge victorious.
With New Zealand assuming the mantle as the No.1 Test-playing rugby league nation after their convincing win in the Anzac Test this year, the Australian Rugby League Commission has responded by appointing Mal Meninga as coach for the next three years.
The Kiwis were without a number of key players in their 2-1 series loss to England but with a further influx of Poms coming into the NRL again in 2016 Graham is optimistic as to his nation's prospects in the coming years.
In addition to the return of Sam Burgess to South Sydney, Joe Burgess (Roosters) and Elliott Whitehead (Raiders) come to the NRL as established English internationals and Graham believes their games will go to the next level by playing in Australia.
"It's a bit of a Catch-22 because the more English players that do come out it weakens the competition back home so it's a hard one to make comment on," Graham said.
"I do believe that having players playing in this competition week in and week out, if players excel it certainly instils confidence in them that they can play at this level.
"Then when it comes to playing internationals it's not a complete shock-horror coming up against someone like a Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for instance like we did in the series just gone.
"I was obviously really pleased and the whole group was thrilled with what we achieved. I think the last series win was in 2007 so it had been a long time.
"We've done OK in some tournaments and not so OK in some others so it's something that we can definitely build on.
"The next Four Nations is at home but with the way the international game is structured there's a lot of water to run under the bridge before we get that chance to pull on the England shirt again and show what we're made of."
With the restructure of the All Stars concept Graham will be one of four English players representing the World All Stars against the Indigenous All Stars at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on February 13.
Also joining Graham from the Mother Nation will be St George Illawarra five-eighth Gareth Widdop and two of the Burgess boys, Sam and Tom.
The All Stars game will mark Sam's return to the 13-a-side game after spending the past 12 months playing rugby union in England and Graham has little doubt that he will be back in the England national team next year.
"There's a hell of a lot of water to run under the bridge in terms of form and injuries leading into an international series," Graham said.
"Unfortunately the way it is we have to wait almost another 11 months until we get the opportunity to play for England again but it's certainly something I'm sure the English team and selectors and coaching staff are looking at.
"They'll have [Burgess] pencilled in for sure I reckon."