Lockers: Wembley will bring out best in us

Sean O'Loughlin celebrates with Leroy Cudjoe
Sean O'Loughlin celebrates with Leroy Cudjoe

WARRIORS skipper Sean O’Loughlin believes Wembley can bring out the best in England in Saturday’s World Cup semi-final against New Zealand.

The loose forward knows England must improve massively on their patchy quarter-final win over France if they are to knock out the holders and reach their first World Cup final since 1995.

But O’Loughlin, who lifted the Challenge Cup at Wembley three months ago, reckons playing at the national stadium will give England a distinct advantage over the Kiwis.

Of coach Steve McNamara’s 23-strong squad, all but six - Rangi Chase, Brett Ferres, Gareth Widdop and the three Burgess brothers - have recent experience of playing at Wembley.

“We know we can get a lot better and I think playing at Wembley will get a lot more out of everyone,” said O’Loughlin.

“I think the venue itself can get the better of you sometimes.

“But there are a lot of players in the squad who have been there - the Wigan, Warrington and Leeds lads have all played there.

“I wouldn’t say they’re familiar with it but they’ve been there and I think it could be a bit of an advantage.

“But it’s still about what you do on the field.”

O’Loughlin, whose try in England’s 34-6 win over the French doubled his tally for the season, admits that a repeat of last Saturday’s performance at Wigan would not be anywhere near good enough to get past the Kiwis, who have scored 186 points on their way to reaching the last four.

“They’re probably the most impressive team in the tournament,” O’Loughlin said.

“If we perform like we did against the French, we will probably get more points put on us than we did on Saturday.

“They have a lot of dangerous players who will cause us a lot of trouble.

“They’ve got big physical players, who are handfuls to deal with and we know we have to be at our best to beat them.

“It was still a convincing win (against France) but it was a bit disappointing performance-wise.”

The biggest danger from the Kiwis is expected to come from back-row forward Sonny Bill Williams but O’Loughlin warns England would be foolish to pinpoint one single threat.

“You could pick one to 13,” he said.