England skipper ready to prove fitness
England captain Sean O'Loughlin will give his quad strain its first stringent test on Tuesday as he endeavours to take his place in the side for Sunday's tournament-defining clash with Australia in Melbourne.
O'Loughlin picked up the injury in Wigan's Super League Grand Final loss to St Helens and was ruled out early in preparations for the tournament opener against Samoa in Brisbane on Saturday night, a match the English secured late to the tune of 32-26.
The inclusion of O'Loughlin would be a tremendous boost for an England team looking to secure their place in the Four Nations Final and the Wigan back-rower is confident he will get through the next two days and line up for his ninth Test for England.
"With the flight and everything coming over here [the injury] has just not got better as quick as I would have liked. I've done some [running] with the physios but I've not joined in with the boys yet," O'Loughlin said from the team's Gold Coast base.
"I've not done much with the boys up to this point but hopefully when the guys start training tomorrow and Wednesday I'll be involved in that and hopefully have a good run into the weekend.
"If we get off to two wins from two that would be great and we also know that the Aussies will be fighting really hard to make sure they get the win as well."
Fullback Sam Tomkins scored the crucial final try in their win over Samoa on Saturday and said the presence of their skipper will only add to the belief already within the squad.
"He'll be massive for us. He's our best player, he's our captain and it's always nice to have him on the field," Tomkins said.
"He's got a little injury that touch wood will come through good and 'Lockers' is probably a player that you only really appreciate what he does once you've played alongside him. He'll be a massive boost if we can get him ready."
Although O'Loughlin has been sounded out by a number of NRL clubs during the course of his illustrious career, the 31-year-old believes his time may have passed but says the experience of England players gained in the NRL is helping to build a more competitive team.
Five NRL regulars played in the match against Samoa while Dragons prop Mike Cooper is also a member of the touring party and O'Loughlin is in no doubt that they have become better players as a result of their time in Australia and New Zealand.
"There are two sides to it. There's the side where you don't want to see blokes being lost from Super League but on the other hand if you come over here and play against some of the world's best players you become better players and that in turn benefits England," O'Loughlin said.
"There are always going to be players who want to come and test themselves over here and you can't knock anyone for wanting to do that but losing some of those players is probably not the best for Super League but that's the way it goes. Hopefully some blokes come over here and do well and become better players to add to the England set-up and maybe come back a few years later.
"There's still a lot of young talent back home and when players do leave it just creates some spaces for hopefully more young kids to come through.
"A few times I've been sounded out by a few clubs but when push came to shove I've got a young family back home and it's never quite been good timing for me to do it. It's something that I've always thought hard about but never quite come off."