One of the main things James Graham is expecting on Saturday is noise, and lots of it.
The England forward admits there is nothing quite like a crowd on home soil and is looking forward to the electric atmosphere that the Olympic Stadium will generate when they play New Zealand in the second game of the International Series this Saturday (2.30pm).
Graham, England’s most capped player (27), is one of a handful of experienced members in the squad. The 30-year-old, who hails from Maghull, has played at iconic stadiums all over the world for club and country, but when it comes to travelling back to the UK and playing in front of the English fans he reveals it’s a special feeling which lifts him every time.
“With me playing overseas now I don’t get to really experience all of the singing and chanting too much. For me personally, I love playing in front of an English crowd, they really crank up the noise levels which gives you a buzz,” said Graham
“I’m really excited to be going to the Olympic Stadium on Saturday. It will be nice to look back one day at some of the famous venues I’ve played at. It’s a big day out for the fans going to London, they’ll all be getting behind us.
“I was told 65 per cent of buyers to this game are from London and the south east. What better way to introduce them, two of the best teams in recent history that have been involved in some very tight games. It’s our job to showcase the sport and hopefully they see an enjoyable game and want to come back again or get involved.”
Graham’s last match against the Kiwis in the nation’s capital was in the 2013 World Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium. New Zealand half-back, Shaun Johnson, scored a last-minute try to snatch England’s place in the final away from them. He remembers the game well and believes fans are in for another classic between these two sides.
“Looking back at that game I just remember the atmosphere at Wembley being unbelievable. The game itself to watch as fan was really good. End to end stuff all the time. The momentum changes were pretty big,” he said.
“Unfortunately when two talented teams come together there has to be a loser, and we lost in pretty dramatic style. You have to play for the full 80 minutes.
“Fans will see improvements from both teams on Saturday after the first game in Hull. Ourselves and the Kiwis will feel better for that first run out and we will have learned that little bit more about each other.
“I’m expecting another close and intense game at Olympic Stadium. It was 12-12 when we went in at half-time on Sunday, those are the type of games that you want to be involved in, it makes you play better.”
The second game between England and New Zealand is at The Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London on Saturday November 7 (2.30pm). The series concludes at the DW Stadium, Wigan on Saturday November 14 (1.00pm).