Roosters to set sights on O’Loughlin

Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams

SYDNEY Roosters players have pinpointed Sean O’Loughlin as the biggest threat to their hopes of winning the World Club Challenge.

The NRL champions warmed up for Saturday’s showdown with a comfortable 32-4 friendly victory against Newcastle Knights.

Kiwi superstar Sonny Bill Williams featured in their only hit-out before they meet the Super League champions.

His New Zealand Test team-mate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves - rated by many as the world’s best prop - says beating Wigan has been a huge focus of their pre-season plans, and nominated O’Loughlin as the player they need to shackle.

“Having watched him and played against him, he’s definitely a world-class player,” said the prop.

“And he deserves to be, he works hard at his game, he’s passionate, and I’m looking forward to coming up against him next week, getting out there and having a good battle.”

O’Loughlin missed Wigan’s 24-8 Super League loss to Huddersfield - their eighth defeat in a row suffered while the loose forward has been absent.

Prop Sam Moa added: “He’s a massive player for them, and we know we have to keep him contained.

“Tommy Leuluai was with us in the Kiwi camp and he couldn’s stop talking about good (O’Loughlin) is. He’s a world-class player.”

Wigan relocate to the Sydney beachside suburb of Coogee today as the anticipation builds to the first WCC on Australian soil in two decades. They spent the weekend in New Zealand, watching the inaugural NRL Nines, in which the Roosters fielded only a handful of the players expected to take part in the WCC.

Instead, 10 of their Grand Final-winning squad were held back to take part in a friendly against the Knights at Wyong, 70 miles north of Sydney, last Saturday night local time - a clear indication of how serious they are taking their fixture against Wigan.

Sam Powell was last night ruled out of the World Club Challenge with an ankle injury suffered in training.

Powell appeared favourite for a bench spot to cover for England hooker Mike McIlorum after impressing in both Wigan’s Super League loss against Huddersfield and last week’s friendly with New Zealand Warriors.

But his absence will open up a chance for Logan Tomkins to press his claims.

Powell, meanwhile, will stay with the squad and have the full extent of his injury assessed when he returns to England next week.