James Graham is set to join one of Rugby League’s most exclusive clubs when he leads out Great Britain against the Tonga Invitational XIII in Hamilton on Saturday.
The 34-year-old Liverpudlian prop is the only member of the 2019 Rugby League Lions to have played previously for Great Britain, having won his first five international caps wearing the blue and red V in 2006-7.
Since then, he has earned a further 44 caps for England – meaning he will win his 50th international cap this weekend.
Graham will become only the fourth British player in the history of Rugby League to reach a half century – following Jim Sullivan, Mick Sullivan and Adrian Morley.
They were joined last autumn by the former New Zealand captain Ruben Wiki, and the Australian trio of Darren Lockyer, Cameron Smith and Petero Civoniceva – who also represented Fiji – as the seven players to be awarded Golden Caps by the Rugby League International Federation in recognition of their achievement in winning 50 international caps.
Now Graham is set to become the eighth recipient of a Golden Cap.
The game against the Tonga Invitational XIII – Great Britain’s first appearance on the international Rugby League stage since 2007, and the start of a four-match tour which continues with two Tests against New Zealand and one against Papua New Guinea – was confirmed as having full international status at last week’s meeting of International Rugby League in Sydney.
Great Britain and the Tongans have each submitted an initial squad to the tournament organisers, which must be reduced to 19 on Friday morning UK time – 24 hours before the match.
The Tongans have included Salford stand-off Tui Lolohea, Warrington forward Ben Murdoch-Masila, Leeds centre Konrad Hurrell and Hull-bound enforcer Manu Ma’u, as well as a host of stars of their run to the semi finals of the 2017 World Cup such as Michael Jennings and Jason Taumalolo.
1. Lachlan Coote (Windsor Wolves, St Helens)
2. Jermaine McGillvary (Deighton Juniors, Huddersfield Giants)
3. Zak Hardaker (Featherstone Lions, Wigan Warriors)
4. Oliver Gildart (Wigan St Patricks, Wigan Warriors)
5. Ryan Hall (Oulton Raiders, Sydney Roosters)
6. Gareth Widdop (Kings Cross, St George Illawarra Dragons)
7. Jackson Hastings (Western Suburbs Red Devils, Salford Red Devils)
8. Chris Hill (New Springs Lions, Warrington Wolves)
9. Josh Hodgson (East Hull, Canberra Raiders)
10. Luke Thompson (Bold Miners, St Helens)
11. John Bateman (Bradford Dudley Hill, Wigan Warriors)
12. Elliott Whitehead (West Bowling, Canberra Raiders)
13. James Graham (c) (Thatto Heath, St George Illawarra Dragons)
14. Josh Jones (Blackbrook, Salford Red Devils)
15. Tom Burgess (Dewsbury Moor, South Sydney Rabbitohs)
16. Jonny Lomax (Orrell St James, St Helens)
17. Alex Walmsley (Dewsbury Celtic, St Helens)
18. Jake Connor (Siddal, Hull FC)
19. Jack Hughes (Golborne Parkside, Warrington Wolves)
20. George Williams (Wigan St Patricks, Wigan Warriors)
21. Daryl Clark (Fryston Warriors, Warrington Wolves)
Tonga Invitational XIII:
1. Will Hopoate
2. David Fusitu’a
3. Michael Jennings
4. Kotoni Staggs
5. Daniel Tupou
6. Tuimoala Lolohea
7. Ata Hingano
8. Andrew Fifita
9. Siliva Havili
10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho ©
11. Ben Murdoch-Masila
12. Manu Ma’u
13. Jason Taumalolo ©
1. Sione Katoa
2. Addin Fonua-Blake
3. John Asiata
4. Sitili Tupouniua
5. Junior Tatola
6. Konrad Hurrell
7. Tesi Niu