Samoa no 'second-tier nation': Graham

Logistically and economically speaking, the Test between global powerhouse England and the tiny island nation of Samoa should be a mismatch.

But try telling that to England prop James Graham who is bracing for a bruising affair at Campbelltown Stadium against a Samoa side that, on paper, deserves favouritism. 

By definition, Australia, New Zealand and England are the only top-tier nations in international rugby league, but with changes to eligibility rules, the gulf in class is becoming smaller by the day. 

England will head into the match as the third-ranked nation in the world – two spots ahead of Samoa – but given the direction the international game is heading, Graham believes the term "second-tier nations" has lost its relevancy. 

"I never really like to use the term 'second-tier nations'. I don't like that phrase at all and it's not something that's in our vocabulary when we're talking about the international game," Graham told NRL.com.

"Other people might like to use that term but it's certainly not something that we talk about in our language."

Having spent the past six seasons in Australia, the Bulldogs skipper has seen State of Origin dominate all and sundry as the code's showpiece representative event, but on the back of events like the Pacific Tests, Graham wants to see the international game become the pinnacle of rugby league.   

"I think the international game needs to be at the top of the tree when it comes to rugby league," he said. 

"Most people would agree that Origin gets more press and it's more of a focal point. How we turn that around, I'm not sure, but it's certainly something the game can look to change.

"Speaking to a couple of people involved with international rugby league who have no affiliation with the NRL or Super League, it's clear that there are a lot of people who are passionate about it and are very keen to see the international game grow. I think there are people in the right places who are taking the right steps about it."

Graham knows the chasing pack is coming to get the top teams after England were pushed for 40 minutes by a brave Scotland side during last year's Four Nations before they overcame an early eight-point deficit to eventually run out 38-12 victors. 

It followed on from an almighty scare against Samoa in 2014 that saw England fight back from 22-20 down with 17 minutes to play to rescue a 32-26 win at Suncorp Stadium.

Graham is wary of an even sterner test this time around against a Samoa side that looks every chance of knocking off their northern rivals. 

"It's a gentle reminder to the lads that were involved in that game just how dangerous this team is," he said. 

"They've named another quality side so we know it's going to be a tough game this Saturday."

One man who was there back in 2014 but won't feature on Saturday night is injured Samoa veteran Frank Pritchard. 

The Eels back-rower is facing a lengthy stint on the sidelines but hopes his teammates can use the heartbreak of three years ago as extra motivation this time around. 

"I broke my foot but I had my operation two weeks ago and put two screws in so I'm looking at 12 weeks rehab before I get back on the paddock," Pritchard told NRL.com. 

"Being injured and missing a rep game is pretty frustrating, but that's life. It's what comes with footy. It's a contact sport and you've just got to roll with the punches and move on.

"We stayed in the fight for a long time [against England] but there were just some crucial errors that cost us the game. If you don't play 80 minutes then it's going to cost you in the end and that's exactly what happened to us. 

"It's been three years since that tournament and we get to redeem ourselves with a new group of boys who are hungry to do well for Samoa."