O’Loughlin hoping Samoa can challenge England

Zak Hardaker.
Zak Hardaker.
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England captain Sean O’Loughlin believes Samoa will provide his side with the perfect preparation for the World Cup.

O’Loughlin will lead his men out against the fifth-ranked team in the world in Sydney in England’s last competitive fixture before their World Cup opener against Australia in Melbourne in October.

The Pacific Islanders have a wealth of NRL experience and are expected to ask plenty of questions of England, just as they did in their only previous meeting in the opening game of the 2014 Four Nations Series in Brisbane.

O’Loughlin watched that match at the Suncorp Stadium from the sidelines as England held off a tremendous performance from Matt Parish’s men to spare their blushes with a 32-26 victory and he is anticipating another tight tussle at Campbelltown Stadium.

“There’s obviously loads of NRL players in that team,” O’Loughlin. “They like to play a real physical, tough game as well as throw the ball about.

“It’s going to be tough but I think that’s probably the most important thing to take out of this game, the quality we’ll get from playing good opposition like Samoa.

“Sometimes in the past winning games by 40-odd points is not always the best prep for coming up against Australia and New Zealand.”

O’Loughlin will win his 18th cap, eight years on from making his England debut, after being recalled to the international team and will once more wear the captain’s armband.

Also back in the fold is former Man of Steel Zak Hardaker.

“It’s always hard to get back in,” said the former Leeds favourite who has played a big role in Castleford’s impressive start to the Super League season.

“It was a challenge in itself to get back into the set-up and I’ve got to put a good performance in against Samoa and then hopefully keep my good form up for Cas to the end of the year.

“I’m really looking forward to it, to represent your country is a massive honour and to be over in Australia, we can show them potentially what we’ve got in store for them for the World Cup.

“It’s massive for me personally and I’m looking forward to showing them what I can actually do.”