Inspirational St George Illawarra Dragons prop James Graham will captain the Great Britain Lions in their historical tour of the southern hemisphere, in what the passionate Englishman describes as "extremely humbling".

Graham is the only member of the 24-man squad who has previously played for Great Britain, winning five caps in 2006 and 2007 as a 19-year-old.

Despite now edging into his mid-30s, Graham hasn't lost any passion for the famous Lions, recalling his childhood ambition of one day playing under their banner.

"It's obviously very emotional for me,” Graham said. "Having Great Britain back, some of the older lads and I in the group grew up with the ambition or dream to play for Great Britain.

"Obviously that’s changed with England coming in, but for me I can remember watching Great Britain against Australia, the Jonathan Davies try at Wembley.

"Watching players like Paul Sculthorpe and Andy Farrell, players of that ilk. That's where you want to be."

Graham representing England in a 34-20 victory over Australia in 2010
Graham representing England in a 34-20 victory over Australia in 2010

Already the most-capped player for England with a record 44 matches for his country, Graham is in line to complete a rare half-century of Test caps this autumn.

Being the most experienced and hardened player in the squad, Graham was as humble as ever and apathetic to bearing the responsibility of captaining his country.

"It's bitter-sweet as well, in an ideal world Sean (O'Loughlin) would be fit and available, and Sam (Burgess) is unavailable as well. Those two probably would have had it ahead of me but that’s not to be,” Graham said

"Though with the candidates still available, people like Gareth Widdop and Josh Hodgson, who captained Canberra to a grand final, it's pretty humbling to lead up the team.“

Born in soccer-crazed Merseyside, Graham's dream was to always play rugby league and it didn't take long before Graham's passion for the sport eventuated into a professional career, debuting at just 17 for St Helens.

Wayne Bennett, the Great Britain and England head coach, said of Graham: "No-one plays with more pride and passion than he does for his country, I can tell you."

Great Britain will play four Tests on consecutive Saturdays on their first trip to the southern hemisphere since the 2006 Tri-Nations series.

They will first play against a Tongan Invitational XIII in Hamilton on October 26, followed by two matches against New Zealand in Auckland and Christchurch. The tour will end on November 16 in Port Moresby in what will be the Lions' first Test in Papua New Guinea since 1996.

Additional reporting by Great Britain media manager Phil Daly

Great Britain squad for 2019 Rugby League Lions tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea: James Graham (St George Illawarra Dragons, Blackbrook; captain), Blake Austin (Warrington Wolves, Doonside Roos), John Bateman (Canberra Raiders, Bradford Dudley Hill), Tom Burgess (South Sydney, Dewsbury Moor), Daryl Clark (Warrington Wolves, Fryston Warriors), Jake Connor (Hull FC, Siddal), Lachlan Coote (St Helens, Windsor Wolves), Oliver Gildart (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks), Zak Hardaker (Wigan Warriors, Featherstone Lions), Jackson Hastings (Salford Red Devils, Western Suburbs Red Devils), Ryan Hall (Sydney Roosters, Oulton Raiders), Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves, New Spring Lions), Josh Hodgson (Canberra Raiders, East Hull), Jack Hughes (Warrington Wolves, Golborne Parkside), Josh Jones (Salford Red Devils, Blackbrook), Jonny Lomax (St Helens, Orrell St James), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants, Deighton Juniors), Joe Philbin (Warrington Wolves, Culcheth Eagles), Luke Thompson (St Helens, Bold Miners), Jake Trueman (Castleford Tigers, West Bowling), Alex Walmsley (St Helens, Dewsbury Celtic), Elliott Whitehead (Canberra Raiders, West Bowling), Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra Dragons, Kings Cross), George Williams (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks).