England believes their NRL factor will give them the edge at the Four Nations tournament despite losing their captain on Tuesday.
Insight gained by their NRL-based contingent has England confident of being “one step ahead” at the Four Nations tournament despite losing their captain on Tuesday.
Bulldogs enforcer James Graham will skipper England for the first time since 2010 after Sean O’Loughlin succumbed to a quad strain ahead of Saturday’s opener against Samoa in Brisbane.
Wigan lock O’Loughlin is expected to be fit for their second clash with Australia in Melbourne on November 2.
A five-strong NRL contingent was named in England’s 17 including George Burgess and his brother Tom who are still buzzing from South Sydney’s drought-breaking premiership.
Graham takes up England’s reins after emerging as one of the world’s premier props in a dominant NRL season capped by a stirring – but ultimately unrewarded – grand final display for Canterbury.
Then there’s England mentor Steve McNamara, an assistant to premiership-winning Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson.
George Burgess believed their NRL factor would give them the edge as they look to overcome their devastating last gasp 2013 World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand at this year’s Four Nations.
“It’s a bit of an insight into our opposition,” he said.
“In the past we’ve not always had a great deal of knowledge on who we’re coming up against.
“But a few of us have come up against them every week back in the NRL so it’s been good for that experience.
“So hopefully we’ll be one step ahead of where we’ve been in the past few years.”
Burgess revealed England’s NRL players had got together regularly with McNamara in his first season as Roosters assistant this year in preparation for the Four Nations.
“We catch up every now and again and go through some things that we’d usually do with the squad back in England and it’s good to have those check points every now and again,” he said.
“He (McNamara) gets to know the NRL pretty well in his first year and he’s at a pretty good club at the Roosters so he’ll definitely be ahead of where he was last year I think.”
Graham hoped their NRL players would spread the belief that Australian players are “human after all”.
“For the new boys who have never played against them before there is always a bit of nervousness,” Graham said.
“But the lads have just got to give the non NRL-based players a bit of confidence, tell them they are human after all.”
Graham is skipper for the first time since he replaced an injured Adrian Morley at the 2010 Four Nations.
McNamara named four rookies in his 17 – Canberra-bound Josh Hodgson, O’Loughlin’s replacement Joe Westerman of Hull FC, reigning Man of Steel Daryl Clark and Wigan’s 27-year-old halfback Matty Smith.