Switch to prop could prolong O’Loughlin’s career

Sean O'Loughlin
Sean O'Loughlin

SHAUN Wane hopes switching Sean O’Loughlin to prop will extend his career.

The captain has started the last two Super League games in the front-row, with John Bateman starting in the loose forward spot.

And Wane expects to stick with the ploy on Saturday night against Australian giants Brisbane Broncos.

While he stopped short at saying this was a permanent move – the composition of his pack may change when injured Dom Crosby and Joel Tomkins come back into the reckoning – he believes it will serve O’Loughlin well in the long term.

Wane said: “It keeps him fresh. If we can get away with him playing 40 minutes instead of 80, and he plays five more games a year, it works for us.

“He’s not getting any younger, but he’s really important to us and we need to be smart with him.

“The hope is it will prolong his career. And he’s buying into it and playing really well.”

The role of the loose forward has evolved during O’Loughlin’s career, from a ball-handler on the edge to a role in the middle alongside the other props.

Because of that, O’Loughlin will not be asked to play any differently – as he proved in the 18-13 win at Huddersfield, when he conjured the play for Josh Charnley’s winning try.

But because he is being rotated with the other props he is playing reduced minutes, while Bateman – previously a second-row or centre – has moved into the middle.

“This is more about handling my workload from the start,” said O’Loughlin, 33.

“He’s been class in the centres and the back-row, but I think Waney sees him working more in the middle and getting more out of him.

“He’s really effective in the middle.

“Things might change, but at the minute this is the way we’re going, and I’m happy – my role doesn’t change too much, I just get more of a breather.”

Wane will bring George Williams back into the side after he was rested last Friday night, in the only expected change to his squad.

l Wigan fans can watch an open training session at their Orrell trainining base tomorrow between 12.30pm and 1.30pm.