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England halfback Luke Gale.

It's regarded as the most crucial position on the rugby league field but in his 14 Test caps for England Sean O'Loughlin has witnessed the No.7 jersey serve as a revolving door of the nation's premier playmakers, none of whom who have been able to make the position of their own.

When O'Loughlin made his international debut for Great Britain back in 2004, legendary St Helens half Sean Long was still calling the shots but there has been little continuity in the position since Long retired from national duty in 2006.

But given the emergence of Luke Gale as Super League's standout half over the past 12 months O'Loughlin hopes that England have finally found their man.

In his 14 Tests for England O'Loughlin has seen seven different players fill the No.7 jersey and after missing last year's Four Nations tournament through injury played alongside Gale for the first time in the mid-year Test against Samoa in Sydney.

After starting in the first two games under Wayne Bennett in last year's Four Nations tournament, Gale was replaced for the final match against Australia by Kevin Brown. With Widdop unavailable through injury Gale then partnered Brown in the halves in the 30-10 win over Samoa.

Gale was this week named opposite Cooper Cronk in what is potentially Cronk's final ever game in the city of Melbourne that has been his home for a decade, having led Castleford to the Super League Grand Final this year on his way to claiming the Man of Steel award as the competition's best player.

O'Loughlin praised the emergence of the 29-year-old who 10 years ago was cut to England's third division competition.

"The last couple of years at 'Cas' he's been really driving that team to the way they've been playing at the minute and rewarded this year with a grand final for himself," O'Loughlin told

"He didn't get the win but the steps he's made as a player and Cas as a club, he's been a real factor behind that.

"We're all hoping he brings that to the England set-up. He's a real explosive player with the ball and he's a real general as well and gets the boys around the park.

"He's a great talker, leads the team well, gets us where we need to be and gets players on him.

"He'll be a real driving force to us performing well."

With a forward pack boasting hardened NRL big men in Sam and Thomas Burgess, James Graham, Chris Heighington and Elliott Whitehead along with experienced Super League forwards such as Chris Hill and O'Loughlin himself, England's halves should have enough of a platform to create opportunities for their exciting outside backs.

Without a win against the Kangaroos since 1995, England have struggled time and again to build pressure on the Australian team but given the form of Gale in Super League and Gareth Widdop's outstanding season for St George Illawarra, O'Loughlin sees great depth in the playmaking ranks.

"In the time I've been involved in internationals it has been a role that has changed hands quite a few times," said O'Loughlin, who is due to turn 35 the weekend of the World Cup semi-finals.

"There's some quality there now with Galey, George Williams who is at Wigan with me as well as halves in 'Gaz' Widdop and Kev Brown.

"Between those guys there's some real quality there and some at the younger end have got a good few years playing in them so if those boys can grip it they could hold onto that spot for a good few years now."

Playing in just his second and final World Cup, O'Loughlin hasn't yet considered whether this will be his final series representing his country but is determined to make his last World Cup appearance one to savour.

"I played in the last World Cup but previous to that that was the only one I've played in. I missed a couple of them so pretty determined to do well this year," said the Wigan legend who has made 399 appearances for the club.

"You can feel the enthusiasm about the team, it's got a good feel about it.

"The boys have had their eye on this for a while and there's been a lot of competition so there's no real security for anyone who was in and who wasn't. There's a real sense of achievement for the boys that are in there."


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