Captain O'Loughlin gives Wigan Warriors a derby boost
Sean O'Loughlin is on course to deliver Wigan a pre-derby boost.
The England captain is set to return from an injury lay-off in time to face St Helens on Friday.
He has not played since limping off with a calf strain in the 20-12 loss at Huddersfield in mid-July.
Warriors lost to St Helens the following week but have won their three matches since to tighten their grip on second spot in the table.
O’Loughlin has been in full training for the last few days and Shaun Wane is hopeful he will lead the side out at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
He said: “Having Lockers back is a huge boost. We all know what an influence he has on the side.”
As well as O’Loughlin’s return, there could be two more ‘new’ faces in the Wigan line-up.
Centre Oliver Gildart is set to add some potency to their backline after recovering from a fractured thumb.
Like O’Loughlin, he suffered his injury in the loss at Huddersfield.
And winger Dom Manfredi is in the frame to play his first senior match in more than two years.
He has had two reserve games under his belt and will take the place of Liam Marshall, who went down with a serious knee injury at Catalans earlier this month and is out for the rest of the season.
Wane plans to finalise his team after training today but confirmed Gildart and Manfredi were options.
If they both figure, and with O’Loughlin returning, it would create a squeeze on places in the pack given Willie Isa has been covering at centre recently.
Teenage forward Ollie Partington, who has had two strong games for his hometown club, and Aussie Gabe Hamlin would be possible options to drop out of the frame.
“We’re in a good place, we’re playing well,” Wane added.
“We’ve been a bit short of options in the backline so it’s good to get some bodies back on board.”
Meanwhile, Wane passed on his congratulations to Catalans Dragons for winning the Challenge Cup.
Steve McNamara’s outfit beat Warrington 20-14 last Saturday to clinch the club’s first piece of silverware.
Ex-Warrior Lewis Tierney opened the scoring and former Wigan favourite Micky McIlorum played a key role in the victory which saw the Dragons become the first non-English team to win the iconic trophy.
“I was an exciting game and I was happy for Lewis and Micky, and for Steve Mac, too, because he had it rough at the start of the year,” he added.