O’Loughlin set for No.6 role

Wigans Sean O'Loughlin goes over for a first half try against Leed Rhinos in the Stobart Super League game at Headingley
Wigans Sean O'Loughlin goes over for a first half try against Leed Rhinos in the Stobart Super League game at Headingley

SEAN O’Loughlin has vowed to have “a good crack” at his position switch – to help keep Wigan on course for silverware this season.

The Warriors skipper will move from loose forward to stand-off in a shuffle of the ranks following Thomas Leuluai’s injury lay-off. He has had brief spells in the playmaker role in the past, but is poised to fill the role for several weeks until Kiwi ace Leuluai returns to action – starting with this Monday night’s home game against Widnes.

The 29-year-old – who will partner Brett Finch in the halfback roles – said: “I’m looking forward to having a crack, but I won’t be changing too much.

“I’ll be wider out and I’ll have to do a bit more organising.

“I prefer loose forward but injuries are part of the game and it’s about the team, not me.”

Leuluai is likely to be sidelined for eight weeks after injuring ankle ligaments and breaking a bone on Exiles duty a week ago.

“I’m glad he’s not out for the year,” said O’Loughlin. “It would have been gutting if that’d happened, because everyone wants to see him play again before he goes back home (to New Zealand Warriors).

“I’ll be sitting down with him and seeing if he can give me a few pointers.

“Until he’s back, it’ll give the likes of Chris Tuson and Liam Farrell a chance to get some more minutes under the belt.”

Shaun Wane had the option of recalling rookie stand-off Joe Mellor from his loan spell at Widnes, but chose to let him stay at Denis Betts’ outfit – and even gave his blessing for him to play against his parent club tonight.

The Vikings are seeking their first away win of the year but are the huge underdogs going into the Sky-televised encounter, with some bookmakers pricing the Warriors at an incredible 1,000-1 ON to win.

Yet O’Loughlin and his team-mates won’t have to delve too far into their recent history for an example of the unlikely taking place – Widnes pulled off a shock victory at the Stobart Stadium earlier this season.

The England Test forward said: “We’ll definitely not be under-estimating them.

“That game taught us a lesson and the lads were smarting for a good few weeks after.”

Warriors have lost just once since then, against Warrington, and have marched to the top of the ladder – and into the Challenge Cup semi-finals - on the back of a 12-game winning streak.

O’Loughlin added: “In hindsight, that defeat could have changed our season.

“We didn’t start well, with losing to Huddersfield on the opening day, and we weren’t playing badly before we lost to Widnes.

“But since then we’ve really kicked on, we’ve only lost once since and we’re heading in the right direction.

“You don’t want to have to lose a game to start playing well, but that’s how it’s gone.”

Mellor will be joined in the Widnes ranks by ex-Wigan players Cameron Phelps, Ben Cross, Jon Clarke and Shaun Briscoe are in their squad.

“I’m sure if you ask them they’ll say it’s just another game,” added the skipper. “But they’ll have that in their mind when they come here – the fact they left the club and have a point to prove.

“Anyone would be the same.”

Wigan’s junior teams enjoyed comfortable wins over their Widnes counterparts last Saturday. The Under-18s won 70-6, the U16s 70-0 and the U15s 38-6.

Paul Deacon has reluctantly had to withdraw from the Wigan legends team to face St Helens on Saturday in Sean O’Loughlin’s testimonial family day. Assistant coach Deacon will be at Sheffield with the academy team.