Former Wigan Warriors coach Michael Maguire says O’Loughlin still ‘top of his game’

England coach Wayne Bennett with Kiwis boss Michael Maguire at the Test series launch. Picture: Simon Wilkinson/SWPix
England coach Wayne Bennett with Kiwis boss Michael Maguire at the Test series launch. Picture: Simon Wilkinson/SWPix

Michael Maguire was reunited with his former Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin today – and then labelled him key to England’s chances.

Maguire, who spent two years in charge of Wigan up to 2011, is back on these shores as the Kiwi coach.

He and O’Loughlin were both at the media launch of England’s Test series against New Zealand.

“There’s quite a few new faces in the England team but they still have some senior blokes who are at the top of their game,” Maguire told the press conference.

“Lockers was my captain when I was at Wigan and it’s good to see he’s still in there.”

O’Loughlin has been joined by his Wigan team-mates Sam Tomkins, John Bateman, George Williams, Oliver Gildart and Joe Greenwood in Wayne Bennett’s squad for the three Test series, which starts at Hull on Saturday.

Bennett said at the series launch at Elland Road that Tomkins is unlikely to play in the opening game at Hull’s KCOM Stadium on Saturday and hinted at the press conference that Lomax was favourite to take over from Stefan Ratchford at full-bacl.

“Sam only came in yesterday as he’s been at (brother Logan’s) wedding this weekend,” Bennett said. “I really haven’t seen much of him.

“Sam’s a very talented player. We all know what he can do. He probably won’t play full-back at the moment, Lomax is a probably the number one choice there.”

Ratchford says he has not yet been given any indication by Bennett of his likely role for the first Test.

“I imagine it will probably be Wednesday but whichever way he decides to go, all the boys are going to be fully supportive of that and we’re fully confident that that we can get the job done whatever 17 we put out there,” Ratchford said.

“There’s a lot of quality in the squad so whoever goes out there will do their best but hopefully I’ll be involved.

“You’ve got me, Sam and Jonny who can all play full-back or in the halves and you’ve got George (Williams) who can play in the halves and Jake Connor who can play in the halves or at centre.

“It’s competition for places and I think that’s what makes training so sharp and so intense, everyone is competing with each other to get their space in the 17.

“But we’re all a pretty close group and good friends so the boys who don’t make the 17 will be congratulating the ones who do.”

Bennett made it clear that Wakefield winger Tom Johnstone is unlikely to face the Kiwis despite scoring a hat-trick on debut against France last Wednesday, with Tom Makinson set to make his first start for England, but suggested that Hull’s versatile back Jake Connor may keep his place.

“Tom is a very talented player who wouldn’t look out of place in a series Test team,” Bennett said. “He might have to wait a little longer yet but he’ll get an opportunity.

“Jake Connor will be pretty close. He went well against New Zealand in America.

“He’s quite understated and doesn’t say much in camp but he’s multi-skilled and talented so he is a very good option for us.”