World Club Challenge: Wigan's Sean O'Loughlin relishing taking on Sydney Roosters
By James Pearson (SkySportsPeo). Last Updated: 18/02/14 2:07pm
Sean O'Loughlin: Will be eager to feature in the World Club Challenge after helping Wigan win the Grand Final
Sean O'Loughlin is no stranger to the big occasion. The Wigan Warriors stalwart suffered an injury-hit season in 2013, although he managed to feature in the Challenge Cup final, Grand Final and the Rugby League World Cup.
O'Loughlin defied a lack of match practice to help Wigan win at Wembley against Hull FC and at Old Trafford over Warrington Wolves, although England suffered heartbreak against New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final.
The 31-year-old was hampered by knee and Achilles injuries last season and a hamstring strain has seen him miss games against Huddersfield Giants and New Zealand Warriors so far this campaign.
It will be no surpise if O'Loughlin emerges from the treatment room on Saturday to play against NRL premiers Sydney Roosters in the illustrious World Club Challenge.
O'Loughlin is a lifelong Wigan fan and, although his memories of Wigan's famous win over the all-conquering Brisbane Broncos are far from fresh, he is desperate to emulate the team that is now part of club history.
On June 1 1994, in the last Challenge match to be staged in Australia, Wigan toppled a team including Wendell Sailor, Steve Renouf, Kevin Walters, Allan Langer and Glenn Lazarus.
The Warriors won 20-14 meaning the likes of Jason Robinson, Shaun Edwards, Martin Offiah, Frano Botica, Andy Farrell and Phil Clarke would be forever remembered in Wigan.
O'Loughlin would love to emulate that team of nearly 20 years ago, but he is under no illusions about the task in hand as Trent Robinson's Roosters, armed with the incredible talent that is Sonny Bill Williams, lie in wait.
"I don't really have too many memories of the game. I can't really remember watching it. I've seen footage and it was a very special for the team that played in it and for the spectators who supported the team then," he told Sky Sports.
"I do have memories of the game, but it's more of highlights since. The team that played in that game, they've got a very special place in the history of the club.
Wigan suffered a 21-15 defeat to St George Illawarra Dragons in the 2011 World Club Challenge
"There aren't many players that get the chance to play in a World Club Challenge so, when it's over in Australia, it's definitely makes it memorable and more special to be involved in.
"There aren't many players that get the chance to play in a World Club challenge so when it's over in Australia it's definitely makes it memorable and more special to be involved in."
"Their team (the Roosters) is littered with world-class players, players who play for Australia and New Zealand. One to 17 they are all world-class players, so we know we're not thinking we're going to get an easy ride.
"We know it's going to be a tough game. I think if we can go there and put in a good account of ourselves and play to somewhere near where we were at the end of the year, then we've got a chance."
Wigan come into the new campaign as double winners and while they dropped their season-opener to Huddersfield 24-8 before flying Down Under, O'Loughlin is relishing the opportunity to win silverware in February.
When asked how the team can improve on last season, O'Loughlin added: "It's going to be a tough one to match. The boys are hungry to do that, be successful again.
"Having this chance to go to Australia early on in the year gives us a crack at a trophy straight from the off really. It gives us something to get our teeth into and something to aim for early on in the year.
"After that it's about concentrating on the league and trying to improve week on week and just focusing on those games to try and get as near to the top of the table as quickly as we can.
"What happens after that looks after itself. We've got a lot of new boys this year, it'll be good to get that continuity with the team. Once we do that we'll get up there, get a bit of form at the back end of the year.
"It's not easy to win trophies, but if your name is up there at the end of the year then you've got a chance. Everyone wants to get that Shield. It's great to get.
"The most important thing at the back end of the year is having some form and playing well. If you're at the top of the table and not playing well, the way the play-off works then other teams get to have a crack at you."
Don't miss a minute of the action as the Sydney Roosters tackle Wigan Warriors in the World Club Challenge on Saturday from 8.30am on Sky Sports 2