WIGAN have been dealt a hammer blow after Sean O’Loughlin was ruled out for around a month.
The club skipper has missed the last two Super League matches with a knee injury, and withdrew from the England squad for tonight’s match against the Exiles.
He was hoping rest would cure the problem – but a fresh can revealed he needed surgery.
Shaun Wane said the early indications suggest O’Loughlin will be missing for between four and six weeks.
Wane said: “It’s obviously a blow, because Sean is our leader and we’re entering an important part of the season.
“We were hoping the injury would settle down, we gave it a couple of weeks, but he needs an operation.
“While it’s disappointing for Sean, it provides an opportunity for someone like Greg Burke to come in and see what he can do, and stake his claim for a more regular spot.”
The injury setback rules O’Loughlin out of Wigan’s next game – a mouth-watering Super League showdown against Warrington on Monday, June 24.
He also seems likely to miss their next two matches, back-to-back home games against Castleford and Bradford.
And the ‘best-case’ scenario of a four-week lay-off still puts him in doubt for the Warriors’ Challenge Cup quarter-final tie against Widnes on July 15 – a month tomorrow.
Wane will be keeping his fingers crossed he is not ruled out for any longer – Wigan’s next two matches after that are against St Helens (July 22) and the Cup semi-final, should they clear the next hurdle.
Sam Tomkins is expected to be the stand-in skipper.
News of O’Loughlin’s surgery comes just days after Mike McIlorum and Ben Flower underwent operations – despite cynicism in some quarters that Wane was resting his frontline players for last week’s match at Widnes. Props Gil Dudson and Paul Prescott are still sidelined with injuries.
WIGAN remain in pole position to sign Leigh’s forward Sam Hopkins.
The 23-year-old has also attracted interest from two other Super League clubs.