SEAN O’Loughlin knows England’s pack have their hands full tomorrow when they aim to topple the World Champions at Wigan’s second home.
Having personally never lost at Wembley, O’Loughlin isn’t ready to let go of that record against New Zealand after the sides kick off at 1pm and admits it will take a special performance to earn a place at next week’s final at a packed Old Trafford.
But the solid forward thinks playing under pressure can bring out the best in his England colleagues.
“We know we’ll be underdogs but hopefully the pressure will bring the best out of us,” said O’Loughlin.
“We all want to be in the final, it’s a big 80 minutes but the venue can get the better of you sometimes,a lot of the Wigan Leeds and Warrington lads have been there. I think that could be an advantage but it’s still about 80 minutes.”
And the Wigan club captain is a player his team-mates wouldn’t be without.
Canterbury Bulldogs prop James Graham is astonished by O’Loughlin’s workload, and cites his leadership qualities as a major boost to England’s chances.
“His all-round game is class,” said Graham.
“He adds a touch of class to the pack but he also gets through the hard work, the tough stuff. He’s a leader for Wigan and the more leaders we have the better.”
And NRL superstar Sam Burgess also rates playing alongside O’Loughlin as a privilege.
“He’s very physical for us. Lockers is great leader, he does that for Wigan and he does that for us,” said Burgess.
“He brought a lot of energy to our defence. Lockers has been there for many years and he’s a senior player and enjoy playing with him. He brings the experience and big-game mentality and great to play alongside in the middle.”
Despite such praise and the undoubted quality of England’s pack, O’Loughlin is aware New Zealand threaten to strike if England approach the game in the wrong way, especially as Sonny Bill Williams has the skill set of a half-back despite his size to go with his reputation as one of the world’s best players.
The 30-year-old said: “You could pick one to 13, they have dangers, and blokes like Sonny Bill in the back row. But if you concentrate too much on one player there are others there who can cause you trouble. Sonny is a fantastic player, he’s big, strong and passes like a halfback. He’s a big danger man.”