HE gets his chance to shine again tonight for England but prop Scott Taylor admitted he did not realise for fully three days the man he is replacing was even injured.
That probably says plenty about the toughness and resilience of James Graham, the much-respected Canterbury Bulldogs forward now sidelined against Scotland at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena due to a knee ligament strain endured in last week’s 17-16 loss to New Zealand.
Nevertheless, it presents a brilliant opportunity for Hull FC’s Taylor who was unlucky to be left out against the Kiwis after an impressive debut in France the week before.
“I didn’t even know Jammer had picked up a knock,” he revealed. “It happened in the first half and the way he played in the second you couldn’t have noticed. We came into camp on Monday night and on Tuesday we had a meeting where they said Jammer had a knee injury and would miss this weekend.
“They said I’d be in the 19-man squad. I’m hoping I get in.”
Barring any late mishaps of his own, Taylor will play against the Bravehearts, earn his second cap and a long-awaited Four Nations debut.
The hope is the rangy forward, who won the Challenge Cup with Hull in August and has enjoyed career best form in 2016, will then do enough to warrant a place versus Australia next Sunday even if veteran Graham does recover in time.
Taylor, 25, added: “If I got to play against Australia in London it would be unbelievable.
“But while I know that’s round the corner I honestly haven’t thought about it. I’ve just been trying to train hard and make the 17, and then just worry about Scotland. I’ll be giving it my all and do nothing different to what’s got me into this position.
“If that’s enough and I do enough to play against Australia, then wow. But it’s one step at a time at the minute.”
That said, the former Hull KR and Wigan Warriors player does know he is in credit with head coach Wayne Bennett – despite being left out last week.
“He said I was tremendous, in his words,” said Taylor, about the Australian’s assessment of his display in Avignon.
“He said it was one of my best performances all season from what he’d seen, he was really happy with me, but that I was unlucky because he wanted to go with a bit more international experience and I understood that.”
Indeed, Graham and Warrington Wolves captain Chris Hill were Bennett’s starting props against the Kiwis with the gargantuan Burgess twins arriving off the bench.
Taylor continued: “I knew the reasons behind it and I didn’t question any of it – the boys deserved their shot to play and it made me drive even harder.
“I was gutted not to be involved, but I was cheering them on like a fan. I was absolutely gutted at the final whistle because I knew how hard they’d worked.
“I’m not a good watcher – I was angry, passionate and wanted to be out there myself.
“I’m a competitor and love my sport, and am passionate about not getting beaten; I was devastated because I knew the boys had given it everything they had.”
Tonight, meanwhile, Beverley-born Taylor is set to be facing, among others, Adam Walker, the fiery prop who has just left Hull KR for St Helens and delivered a towering performance for Scotland in last Friday’s 54-12 defeat to Australia. Although the hosts are huge favourites against the tournament newcomers, they are fully expecting a physical battle early on.
“I didn’t watch that Australia game live because we had our own shirt presentation before the New Zealand match,” explained Taylor.
“But I’ve had the laptop out and watched a few clips. I’ve played against a lot of them before so I know what to expect.
“Adam Walker’s a good player. I’ve played against him in competitive games before in the Hull derbies. I played with (Lewis) Tierney at Wigan and Liam Hood at Salford, plus Dale Ferguson for England Knights. I know (Warrington’s) Matty Russell as well as he knocked around with the Wigan boys a lot when I was there.
“They have some really top players and deserve to be in the Four Nations with the squad they’ve got. We’re making a bit of history, too, with it being the first Test match between the sides and I’m expecting it to be competitive and fierce.”