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Bennett praises passion of Burgess and Graham as Lions jersey launched

Great Britain coach Wayne Bennett has praised star forwards Sam Burgess and James Graham as the Lions jersey was unveiled for their first matches in 12 years at the end of the season.

The long-time Test team room-mates are due to play each other in Friday night’s clash between Bennett’s South Sydney and St George Illawarra at ANZ Stadium but Burgess is expected to be ruled out for the Rabbitohs due to an infection.

However, he is hoping to play alongside Graham when the Lions embark on their first tour since 2006, with the pair and England captain Sean O’Loughlin likely to be the only players to have previously worn the Great Britain jersey.

Graham has represented Great Britain on five occasions, while Burgess has played two Tests and both were members of the team which beat New Zealand in England in 2007.

Great Britain have not played since but the Lions concept will be revived at the end of the season when Bennett oversees Tests against New Zealand, Tonga and Papua New Guinea.

Burgess, who captained the Bennett-coached England team in the 2017 World Cup final against Australia and now plays under him at South Sydney, is expected to be one of the first players picked, along with Graham.

Despite both having enjoyed lengthy careers in the NRL, Bennett said Burgess and Graham, the St George Illawarra prop, remained passionate about England and Great Britain.

"Whatever England has done over the past five or six years, a lot can be put down to those two," Bennett said. "They’ve both really put their hands up and they make my job so much easier."

Burgess demonstrated his national pride when he turned up at Souths training last week in an England Test jersey and cricket cap after their defeat of New Zealand in the World Cup final at Lords.

"Sam puts it out there every day, it’s not something he hides," Bennett told

"I see a very passionate Englishman, that’s what I see every day. He’s really proud of his country and loves the game of rugby league.

"That’s what he was brought up on. His father played and he’s lived every day to play rugby league. Nothing has changed with him and he’s a great ambassador for England."

Burgess and Dragons captain Gareth Widdop are among the players featured in a video to launch the return of the iconic blue and red V Great Britain jersey for the four-match tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

The video - titled The Pride Is Back - includes clips of classic moments such as Jonathan Davies’ try against Australia at Wembley in 1994, Clive Sullivan lifting the World Cup in 1972, and older footage of Lions teams entering the field at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

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