“There probably are reasons to be hesitant about going over to England” – is the World Cup in jeopardy?

Ex-England captain James Graham has told nrl.com that there is no need to be worried about travelling to England, amidst coronavirus fears.

Graham, who now lives in Australia after winning the 2020 Grand Final with St Helens, said conditions had rapidly improved in England with the vaccine roll-out and life was expected to be as close to normal as possible when the tournament starts on October 23.

With Australia RU, New Zealand RU and Fiji RU set to travel to Wales in November, and the semi-finals and final of the European Football Championship to be staged in London in July, Graham said it would be a missed opportunity for the code if the World Cup was postponed. That being said, the flame-haired former prop forward is aware that some within the game have reservations about the tournament going ahead as scheduled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the way it was initially handled in England.

“When I am speaking to people there is a bit of a concern about the pandemic but I keep a pretty close eye on the happening in England and everything looks like it is on track,” said Graham.

“There probably are reasons to be hesitant about going over to England but if everything remains on track England will be a completely safe place to be – on a par with where Australia is now.

“By the time the World Cup comes along there will be no laws in place around the coronavirus, the vaccine will be completely rolled out and there will be many sporting events that will have been held there that the organisers of the World Cup can learn from.

“I think it is hugely important that the World Cup goes ahead, not just for the game over there but for the international game moving forward.

“If we thought 2017 was a great World Cup this is going to be above and beyond that, and there is an opportunity for our game to showcase itself to the world.

“International rugby league is like that little secret that we all know, and if we are to get where I think rugby league should be as a global sport it is important that the World Cup happens.”

Restrictions in Britain have been lifted this week and from June 21 all legal limits on social contact are set to be removed, with English Premier League clubs expected to be allowed 50 per cent capacity at stadiums in August. World Cup organisers hope the tournament will be the first major sporting event in Britain with capacity crowds at matches.

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