O'Loughlin living the American dream

Given all the things he has done and won in his career, it is rare for Sean O'Loughlin to have the chance to do something new.

Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 11:35 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 12:41 pm
Sean O'Loughlin in a field session at Denver. Picture: England RL

But this Saturday, he is set to lead England out to face New Zealand – in a ground-breaking Test in Denver, USA.

O’Loughlin, 35, said: “It’s something new, something different, and hopefully it ticks all the boxes in terms of appealing to a new audience.

“I’ve never played over here, it’s exciting – individually – to experience it, but also for the sport to be a part of something new and hopefully what it leads to.

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“But in terms of Saturday’ hopefully build on the momentum of what we felt we built in the World Cup.

“The mid-season game gives the fans as much as the players a chance to be part of an England game. It’s good for us to come together and play – for fans don’t have to wait a full year to wait and watch the national side.”

This is the first of three mid-season Tests, on successive years, being staged in Colorado and it will mark New Zealand’s first game under Michael Maguire, the ex-Wigan coach.

O’Loughlin added: “Madge probably came to Wigan when we were under-performing, we had good players but hadn’t got over the line, and for the Kiwis to come in after a disappointing World Cup – he will come in with a clean slate and get everyone working.”

Wayne Bennett is pleased to have Wigan skipper O’Loughlin back leading the side after he missed the World Cup Final through injury.

“He’s a quality player, a quality bloke and the captain of the team, so it’s great to have him back,” said Bennett, after overseeing his first field session with his side.

Bennett has named debutants Jake Connor and Tommy Makinson in his team to face New Zealand but there is no place for Luke Thompson.

With Wigan half-back George Williams already ruled out of Saturday’s historic Test match in Denver with a knee injury, St Helens prop Thompson is the only fit member of Bennett’s 19-man squad to miss out.

The side to face the Kiwis at the Mile High Stadium includes 12 players who were part of the team beaten by Australia in the World Cup final in December.

On uncapped pair Jake Connor and Tommy Makinson, Bennett said: “Their form is good in the UK and that’s half the battle - playing well at the right time of the year, and they are playing well.

“It’ll be a different contest to what they’re used to but they look like they’re well equipped to handle it.”

Scott Taylor, who featured only once at the World Cup, has been preferred ahead of Thompson after receiving a late call-up following the withdrawal of George Burgess.

“Scott’s been in the squad since I’ve been coach but he hasn’t played enough Test matches so he’s going to get an opportunity to show us what he can do this week,” said Bennett.

Kick-off on Saturday is 9.10pm (GMT), BBC2.