O'Loughlin: Nothing will be won in first week
England captain Sean O'Loughlin admits while coach Wayne Bennett has pressured his players to perform, nothing will be won when they take on Australia today.
The winners of this morning’s World Cup opener will theoretically smooth their path to the final, but the Warriors skipper wants to ensure England improve as the tournament progresses.
“There’s nothing won in this first week, but we want a good start – from our point of view we want to win but we want to be building towards those knock-out games,” he said.
“We want to make sure we grow into it and we when we get to the business end we’re at our best.
“Wayne puts boys under pressure to do well.
“He obviously comes with a lot of experience and the
boys continue to learn from him.”
And O’Loughlin insists England don’t need to conjure up Superman plays to topple Australia.
He believes smartening up – and sharpening up – gives them the best chance of claiming their first victory since ditching the GB banner a decade ago.
“When you play Super League and you make an error, you can get away with it, but you can’t at this level,” he said.
“We need to be a lot more clinical. We need to earn the right to score tries.
“It’s not about doing anything different, it’s just about doing it better. Everything is at the next level.”
This will be O’Loughlin’s first game as captain against Australia since being appointed in 2015, having missed last year’s Four Nations through injury.
“Being captain is a big honour but I’m well aware there are four, five, six other players who can do the job,” he said.
“Captaining England is easy because there are so many others who have that role for their clubs. It doesn’t really change anything.”
The winners on Friday would, in theory, get a smoother path to the final. And if England, or Australia, miss out on the decider on December 2, this could be O’Loughlin’s final game against the Kangaroos.
But his mindset is all about anticipation, rather than reflection.
“The chance to fly the flag and represent your country, especially over in Australia... it’s huge,” he said.
“I’ve only been involved in one World Cup, this will definitely be my last.”
Wayne Bennett’s England squad list suggests Warriors forward John Bateman will line-up at centre, with Saints’ Jonny Lomax at full-back, and Castleford’s Luke Gale partnering Gareth Widdop in the halves.
Assistant coach Denis Betts says the England coaching staff have no worries about Bateman playing centre.
Bateman, primarily a forward, has covered the role for Wigan.
“Defensively he’s very good, he’s got good foot speed,” said former Wigan ace Betts.
“He keeps us strong defensively.
“He’s aggressive, he’s hard to put down, has a real good skill base and he’s played in that position on numerous occasions.”
Australia’s NRL Grand Final referee Matt Cecchin will be charge of Friday’s opening World Cup match between Australia and England in Melbourne.
Kick-off is 10am UK time and the game is live on BBC 2.
Australia: Slater; Gagai , Chambers, Dugan, Holmes; Morgan, Cronk; Woods, Smith, Klemmer, Cordner, Gillett, J Trbojevic. Subs (from): Graham, McLean, McGuire, Frizell, Campbell-Gillard, Hunt, T Trbojevic, Kaufusi.
England squad: Lomax; McGillvary, Watkins, Bateman, Hall; Widdop, Gale; Hill, Hodgson, Graham, S Burgess, Whitehead, O’Loughlin. Subs: Walmsley, Heighington, T Burgess, Roby, Currie, Brown, Percival,