WIGAN coach Shaun Wane believes appointing Sean O’Loughlin as the next England captain is “a no-brainer”.
The 31-year-old Wigan skipper is the early favourite to succeed Leeds’ Kevin Sinfield, who announced on Monday night his retirement from the international game.
O’Loughlin is in England coach Steve McNamara’s 34-strong training squad and a certainty to make the cut ahead of the Four Nations Series in Australia and New Zealand at the end of the season.
“I rate him very, very highly and, if I was Steve, I wouldn’t look anywhere else,” Wane said.
“He has the respect of all of his team-mates and whoever he plays against, overseas as well as in this country, it’s a no-brainer for me.
“Lockers is very patriotic. But he needs to consider his Wigan career as well. That’s a decision for him to make, I wouldn’t put any pressure on him.”
O’Loughlin, who made his 11th England appearance in last November’s World Cup semi-final defeat by New Zealand, would have considerably more caps to his name but for a series of injuries and he missed 14 matches for the Warriors in 2013.
Wane admits the combative nature of his inspirational captain leaves him susceptible to injury but insists that is part of his make-up.
“The way he plays, you can never say his injuries are behind him,” Wane said. “If you try to make him protect his body a bit, he’s not the same player.
“I look after him off the field with his recovery but, when he plays, he throws his body in. He is what he is. I would never want to change him.”
Other candidates that could be in the running include former St Helens skipper James Graham, who led England in the absence of Jamie Peacock and Adrian Morley on the 2010 Four Nations tour down under, and former Wigan full-back Sam Tomkins, now with New Zealand Warriors.
O’Loughlin is the clear favourite from the Super League-based players who held a get-together in Leeds on Monday night and he would have the backing of former England coach Tony Smith.
“He’d be the obvious one if he’s available,” said Warrington head coach Smith. “I think he’s a tremendous player. He’s a good leader and a good style of person off the field, too, which is very important to that sort of position.
“It’s not just about what you do on the rugby field, it’s about how you present yourself and what sort of character you’ve got.
“I’m sure, if he’s called upon, he’d be honoured to do it and would do a fantastic job for his country.”
Like Peacock before him, Sinfield stood down in order to prolong his club career and Smith believes it was a brave decision.
“I’ve always had the greatest admiration for him and I know that would have been a difficult decision for him because I know how much he loves playing for his country and how much pride he has doing that,” Smith said.
“It’s not just a brave but an honourable decision to step down.”