“He didn’t set the right environment” – James Graham critical of Tony Smith for approach to England’s 2008 World Cup campaign

James Graham has become the latest England player to open up on England’s infamous 2008 Rugby League World Cup campaign.

Led by head coach Tony Smith, England travelled down under with a star-studded team but were put to the sword in embarrassing fashion by Australia and New Zealand.

Smith’s side were humiliated 52-4 by the Kangaroos, with back-to-back defeats to eventual winners New Zealand eliminating them from the tournament in the semi-finals.

Much fancied before the tournament to challenge their southern hemisphere counterparts with a golden generation of talent, the campaign is seen as one of England’s biggest World Cup failures.

And speaking on his The Bye Round Podcast to former team-mate Adrian Morley, Graham was critical of his former international coach Smith for his approach to the tournament.

“Speaking about regrets and the international game, one of the biggest regrets I have is getting that 2008 World Cup wrong,” said Graham.

“I think we speak to people and reflect and that was one of the most talented and able squads. I was only 23 at the time but I think we really messed up there.

“I don’t want to be too critical of the coach at the time and perhaps as leaders we could have handled ourselves better, but I don’t think he (Smith) set the right environment for us to go over there and win.”

Graham’s comments come just a few weeks after former England captain Kevin Sinfield was open in admitting that the squad for that tournament, which was full of Grand Final players from rivals Leeds and St Helens, didn’t get on well enough.

Speaking on the Rugby League World Cup Podcast, Sinfield said: “There wasn’t any animosity between the lads but we didn’t mix well enough, we didn’t get on well enough we didn’t spend enough time together and that hurt us on the field.

“For our sport you have to trust the guy next to you and you have to have that honesty and you only get that through spending time with each other and we didn’t.”

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