England captain Sean O’Loughlin is expecting his old Wigan boss Michael Maguire to make a major impact with New Zealand, starting with next week’s Test match in Denver.
Maguire is still revered in Wigan after he coached them to their first Grand Final triumph for over a decade in his first season in Super League in 2010 and helped them add the Challenge Cup a year later before returning to the NRL.
The 44-year-old Australian had six years in charge of South Sydney before leaving at the end of 2017 but he is back in coaching after succeeding David Kidwell as boss of the Kiwis.
His first assignment will bring him into conflict with O’Loughlin in Colorado on Saturday week.
“He’ll be a big asset for them - knowing what he did here in such a short space of time and how he flicked us round in an off-season almost,” O’Loughlin said.
“He might not get as much time with the boys but he’ll be familiar with a lot of the lads from playing in the NRL so he’ll know what he’s got on his plate and what he can get from the boys.
“I think he’ll have a big influence on them.”
As well as O’Loughlin, Maguire will pit his wits against Sam, Tom and George Burgess from the Rabbitohs.
They are among six NRL-based players in the 19-man England squad who were released despite strong opposition from coaches and clubs alike in Australia.
Penrith coach Anthony Griffin on Thursday reiterated his own opposition to the concept, saying: “From an NRL point of view, I don’t see any benefit from it.”
But O’Loughlin never had any doubt that the game would go ahead and says all the England players are firmly behind it.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s somewhere new for us to go.
“It’s a new crowd and the boys that were at our recent meeting, as well as the NRL boys, are excited about the opportunity to go out there and represent England, and hopefully it’s a big thing for the sport as well.
“I heard what was going on but from our camp it’s all remained positive and there’s never been any wavering from the fact that there was going to be a game.
“Our focus has just been on that. The staff at England and the RFL have just been prepping us and there’s almost been no talk of it not being on. It’s been all go ahead for us.
“I’d definitely have been gutted if it didn’t go ahead. It’s exciting for the sport to have a chance to show itself.”
Just how many NRL players will be released for New Zealand will become clear when Maguire announces his squad on Sunday.