In the third of his exclusive World Cup columns, former Wigan and GB centre Martin Gleeson explains just why Sean O’Loughlin is so important to England’s prospects...
England have arrived in Australia to prepare for the World Cup, and I’ll say this without hesitation; they have the right man leading the team.
For me, Sean O’Loughlin was the obvious choice as captain.
He may be 34 but he’s proved this year he can still perform at the very top level.
As a player, he’s a bit of a dying breed, given the way the loose forward role has changed over the years.
He may not the last of them, but he’s definitely the best of what’s left.
Like Andy Farrell and Paul Sculthorpe before him, he’s got a great range of skills, and – crucially – the ability between the ears, too.
He has great vision, he sees gaps and opportunities, he knows which pass to pick.
Wigan didn’t win a Super League game without him last year – which is a bit of a worry, from their point of view – but it underlined the influence he can have on those around him.
People have heard the phrase ‘he is a captain who leads by action’, but many perhaps don’t realise just how important that is.
When you need a strong carry to get you off your line, he’s there. When you need someone to put on a shot, he’ll do it.
Those actions really lift the players around him.
Like Faz and Scully, he’s also got the attitude and temperament you want in big games.
Which is why I think he’s key to England’s success in this tournament.
A World Cup victory in Australia would really seal his legacy.
Of course, there is a long way to go before then, and England coach Wayne Bennett will be looking to fine-tune their preparations when they play a warm-up game this Friday.
It’d be interesting to see how the management handle all the travel, because I’ve had good and bad experiences of touring.
In 2006, for example, we kept a base in Manly and flew out from there to our games, and all the travel got tedious.
Whoever’s designed the trip needs to get it right.
Because England are going from Perth to Melbourne, to Sydney, to Perth, and then potentially New Zealand and Brisbane in the knockout stages.
Wigan legend Shaun Edwards will be the special guest at a dinner to mark Martin Gleeson’s testimonial at the AJ Bell Stadium on October 28. For details call 07950 531253 or email email@example.com