Rugby League World Cup: James Graham omitted from England squad to face Australia
Last Updated: 27/10/13 1:12pm
James Graham: Forward left out of England squad
Former captain James Graham has been left out of the England squad for the World Cup opener against Australia in Cardiff on Saturday.
The 28-year-old Canterbury Bulldogs prop forward was the notable absentee from coach Steve McNamara's 19-man squad amid speculation that he has been punished for his part in the drinking session which led to Gareth Hock's expulsion from the tournament.
Hock, who failed to turn up for a swimming session on Sunday after sleeping in, has claimed that he was one of "six or seven" players who broke the seven-day alcohol ban following England's shock defeat to Italy at Salford on Saturday.
Complaining that he had been made a scapegoat, Hock claimed that McNamara had told him that the other players involved in the breach of rules would also be disciplined.
"There is a sense of anticipation and determined resolve amongst the group. This is what we all have been working for over the last few years."
England have refused to comment on Graham's absence but he appears to have been effectively handed a one-match ban as he was thought to be a certainty to win his 19th cap against the Kangaroos at the Millennium Stadium.
In Graham's absence, McNamara has selected 21-year-old Tom Burgess, who joins twin brother George and older sibling Sam in the 19-man squad, which will be trimmed to 17 before kick-off.
Sam and George both played against Italy while Tom played for the England Knights alongside Huddersfield second rower Brett Ferres, who was drafted in as a replacement for Hock on Tuesday and has been handed a place in the 19.
Wigan second rower Liam Farrell is the fourth uncapped player in the squad, but loose forward Sean O'Loughlin has been ruled out after he failed to recover from injury.
McNamara said: "The players have trained well all week and we are ready to take on Australia.
"We have healthy competition for places across all areas. The players are aware of this and continue to put in the effort in training to make sure they are prepared and ready for what should be a thrilling game.
"There is a sense of anticipation and determined resolve amongst the group. This is what we all have been working for over the last few years. We know we are going to have play well to win.
"Our focus on the tournament and throughout the year has been about being the best we can be. We respect all opponents but the aim is to focus on ourselves and continue to improve.
"You sense there is real momentum around the tournament. As a team you want to play on the biggest stages of all and nothing can beat that.
"We are very excited to be playing at one of the most iconic stadiums in the world and our aim is to put on a performance that excites the nation."
England squad: Ablett, G Burgess, S Burgess, T Burgess, Burrow, Charnley, Chase, Cudjoe, Farrell, Ferres, Hall, Hill, Mossop, Roby, Sinfield (capt), Tomkins, Watkins, Westwood, Widdop.