Wigan’s O’Loughlin ‘buzzing’ to be in England squad

Sean O'Loughlin in training with the England Elite Performance Squad
Sean O'Loughlin in training with the England Elite Performance Squad

Sean O’Loughlin admits he was “buzzing” to be included in England’s squad to face Samoa in Sydney next month.

The Wigan skipper and George Williams are among 12 Super League-based players in the 20-man squad for the Test on May 6.

O’Loughlin has been handed the captaincy ahead of Sam Burgess, who was skipper in his absence in the Four Nations last autumn.

“I’m buzzing to be a part of it again,” said the 34-year-old, who last played for England in 2015.

“Missing out last year (through injury) was hard - I went to watch a couple of the games, and it hit home how much I love playing for my country.

“I’ll always put my hand up to play for England - sometimes that decision gets taken out of your hands - but I’ll always put my hand up to do it, and I’m excited to be back in the squad.”

O’Loughlin captained England to a series win against New Zealand in 2015 under Steve McNamara’s watch and, months later, new coach Wayne Bennett said he would retain the captaincy - until injury ruled him out of last year’s autumn series.

“The biggest thing was being back in the side,” said O’Loughlin. “The captaincy is a massive, massive honour but there are a lot of blokes here who are more than qualified to do that.”

John Bateman and Sam Tomkins were not considered because of injury.

Joe Burgess and Liam Farrell were overlooked, and in the latter’s case, it may prove a talking point after Bennett decided to include two Australian-born forwards.

Chris Heighington, 34, previously played for England in 2011, while former Queensland State of Origin representative Chris McQueen is also in the panel.

McQueen, who has never previously been included, qualifies through an English dad.

“You see it in other sports. As long as the players qualify, then it’s up to the coaches to pick the best side,” said O’Loughlin, who has previously played for his country alongside Rangi Chase and Maurie Fa’asavalu, who qualified through residency.

“Once you’re in that team environment, everyone gets on with it - the accent doesn’t make a difference.”

With a World Cup in Australia at the end of this season, O’Loughlin says the Test against Samoa is an important stepping stone.

“The opposition will be very tough, and from a team-building point of view, it throws the whole group closer together,” said O’Loughlin, who has never played Samoa before.

England’s Test against Samoa will be screened behind a paywall on the RFL’s website after the game’s governing body rejected the BBC’s offer to televise the game.