Lockers backs RFL as big hits stay

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SEAN O’Loughlin has welcomed news that shoulder charges will not be banned ahead of the start of the new Super League season.

Many feared the Rugby Football League would foolow their counterparts Down Under by outlawing the tackle-technique.

But after consulting players and coaches, the RFL’s laws committee is understood to have decided to allow them to stay.

And Wigan captain O’Loughlin believes common sense has prevailed.

He said: “Fans enjoy the shoulder charges as much as the tries, they’re part of rugby league and I think it would be a bit of a joke to ban them.

“I know they are now banned in the NRL, I think there have been a couple of high-profile incidents Down Under and they’ve reacted to that.

“But I’ve said before, this is rugby league, you can’t wrap players in cotton wool.”

O’Loughlin, 30, pointed out he had seen more players suffer head injuries from tackling low and colliding with opponents’ knees – or even their own team-mates’ heads – than from shoulder charges.

The NRL’s decision – made due to players’ welfare issues – met with a fierce backlash from players and fans alike, with many accusing the sport of turning soft.

The issue is likely to be addressed by the Rugby League International Federation when it meets next Spring.

That organisation could implement a ban at Test level ahead of next year’s World Cup, and the RFL may decide to fall into line then. The RFL’s only expected change will be harsher punishments for contact with the head.

But the different stances causes a headache, as the two professional competitions are effectively playing to different rules.

And with NRL premiers Melbourne and Super League champions Leeds meeting in the World Club Challenge in February, organisers will need to make a decision over which interpretation is used.

O’Loughlin was speaking after flying back into England from America yesterday. The Warriors first-team squad spent 10 days in sun-kissed Florida as Shaun Wane stepped up his preparations for next season.

They were due to return to training at Orrell today, but O’Loughlin will instead head to the hospital for a hernia operation.

The procedure is not expected to impact on the start of next season, with the loose forward set to play in at least one of the club’s pre-season friendlies.

Wigan will play in four ‘trial matches’ before the new campaign – starting with a fixture at Leigh on January 6.