WIGAN’S play-off charge has been dealt a body-blow after Sean O’Loughlin was ruled out for at least a month.
The team captain visited a specialist in London on Monday after failing to recover from a calf injury which has hampered him for several weeks.
Detailed scans revealed a tear in his Achilles.
O’Loughlin will wear a protective boot for the next four weeks and have the injury reassessed then.
But even the best case scenario would take him to the eve of Grand Final week – and the most likely scenario is he will miss the rest of Wigan’s campaign.
It’s a huge blow for the 30-year-old, who battled through the pain barrier to lead his side to Challenge Cup glory last month and dreamed of guiding his side to a trophy double.
And it places a question mark over his involvement in the end of season World Cup tournament.
O’Loughlin – expected to be named in the Super League DreamTeam next Monday – is a key member of Steve McNamara’s England side.
Of more immediate concern is how Wigan will cope in his absence.
Their recent record illustrates just how much an influence the loose forward has on the team.
Of their last 11 matches, Wigan have lost six – all when O’Loughlin has been absent. And of the five victories, he played in all but one.
Coach Shaun Wane said: “I’m gutted for Lockers and it’s a big blow, but we’ll deal with it.”