WARRIORS skipper Sean O’Loughlin is waiting to see if he will feature for England against Australia at the Millennium Stadium in Saturday’s World Cup opener.
Lockers featured in Wigan’s Grand Final win over Warrington, helping Shaun Wane’s men to a memorable double, after missing the end of the regular season and play-off campaign with a nasty Achillies injury.
England coach Steve McNamara is desperate to have the Wigan leader in his ranks for the duration of the tournament and is not taking any risks with him in training as the countdown clock heads to zero.
O’Loughlin sat out the humiliating 15-14 loss to Italy on Saturday, but could feature in McNamara’s squad to face Australia in Cardiff – meaning his last three matches will have been at Wembley, Old Trafford and the Millennium Stadium.
“He’s progressing. He’s doing some good work with the medical staff and the conditioners so we’re hoping he’ll be ready for this week,” said McNamara.
“We’ve managed him because of the severity of his previous injury and the amount of training he was able to do before the Grand Final. We’ll assess him as the week goes on.”
Wigan struggled without O’Loughlin towards the end of the regular season as Wigan forced their way to a memorable double, and McNamara thinks the 30-year-old’s contribution to any side he plays in is undervalued.
“He’s a big-game player, an outstanding contributor to the group, and that’s why he’s with us,” he said.
“I don’t think people realise what quality he brings. He is an outstanding player and an outstanding human being.”
O’Loughlin missed the 2008 World Cup in Australia due to injury and will be desperate to make the most of his opportunity to represent his country in a home World Cup.
And McNamara is confident the Man of Steel shortlister will be fit to make an impact – not just on Saturday but throughout the tournament – as England look to negotiate their way through the knock-out stages.
McNamara continued: “He’s staying positive. He understands injuries are part and parcel of the game and he’s had his fair share this year, but he’s positive.
“Saturday will be a big game in its own right, but it’s a long tournament and we need Sean available in as many of those games as we can.”
Following what is expected to be the sternest of tests from Australia, England face Ireland at a sold-out John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield a week later before travelling to Hull to take on Fiji on November 9 to complete their group fixtures.