SEAN O’Loughlin reckons international rugby league is finally heading in the right direction.
The Wigan skipper was at Headingley yesterday to hear details of England’s game against the Exiles be unveiled.
And with a planned match at Wembley later this year, he reckons the game is making the right decisions for the national team.
“It’s really exciting for the sport,” he said. “I think the Exiles idea is a smart move, to get a game at Wembley would be great – the ideas that the RFL are coming up with show we’re heading in the right direction.”
England will face an Exiles team drawn from Super League’s pool of Australians and New Zealanders at Headingley on Friday, June 12.
All seven of Warriors’ overseas players – vice-captain Thomas Leuluai, Ryan Hoffman, Jeff Lima, Brett Finch, Pat Richards, George Carmont and Amos Roberts – are in the initial 34-man squad.
Coaches Brian McClennan and No.2 Terry Matterson will pick nine players – two of whom are captain Danny Buderus and Leuluai – with fans’ votes deciding the other 13 overseas stars in the 22-man panel.
O’Loughlin concedes England will have their work cut out if they are to win the ‘International Origin’ match.
He added: “You see the names they have, they’re going to have a classy outfit.
“You want to face a side that is as close as you can get to playing New Zealand or Australia, and this is the closest you get to that.
“There will be bragging rights at stake – whoever loses won’t hear the end of it!
“If you look at their players, Tommy plays internationally and I know the Aussies don’t play Origin or Test rugby any more, but for many of them it’s not because they’re not good enough, it’s because they’ve made the choice to ply their trade over here.”
Each club will be limited to having three overseas players in the Exiles squad.
Asked whether the England players may be tempted to vote online to try and influence the team, he laughed: “We’ll not be doing that!”
Meanwhile, O’Loughlin and the rest of the Wigan players were due to welcome Gareth Hock back into training this morning for the first time since his doping ban in 2009. Hock can train with the Warriors in readiness for his return to action at the end of June.
“I’m made up for him to get the chance to come back,” added O’Loughlin. “I think it’ll be good for him to get a taste again and give him a real shot at the start when his ban is up.”