SEAN O’Loughlin is poised to make his introduction in the World Cup this weekend.
The Wigan skipper sat out Saturday’s 28-20 defeat against Australia as he nurses an Achilles injury which disrupted the end of his Super League season.
But he is nearing a return to full fitness and hopes to figure in England’s next match, against Ireland at Huddersfield on Saturday.
He said: “I’d have loved to have played against Australia, but I just wasn’t right. I was a bit sore, I’ve not done much with the boys for the last week or two, but it’s probably been the best it’s been now so I’ll get into it this week.
“If i’d played, I might have been out for a couple of weeks after. Hopefully there are another five games to go and it’s more about getting to a point where I can get involved and stay involved.
“I hope that’s the next game, I’ll do a full week with the boys and hopefully get selected.”
O’Loughlin’s return could be a timely boost for England, if Sam Burgess is punished for a high shot on Sam Thaiday midway through the second-half of Saturday’s match at Cardiff.
England’s remaining opponents in their group - Fiji and Ireland - aren’t expected to cause them any problems, but O’Loughlin said: “We probably thought that about Italy (in the friendly which they lost 15-14).
“A lot of these games, you don’t know much about the players, and you can be caught cold if you don’t go into them full on.
“For us it’s about going in with the aim of playing the Aussies or the Kiwis, playing with that intensity.”
O’Loughlin is confident England can build on their opening day performance, and do so in front of sell-out crowds at Huddersfield and Hull.
“The organisers have done a great job with ticket sales,” he said.
“We’ve played the Kiwis and Aussies at those stadiums and not had full houses, so to get near sell-outs for these games is terrific.
“It makes for more intense games and better atmospheres. The lads are gutted to have lost against Australia, but watching from the sidelines, there’s still a lot in us.”