Two of England’s brightest Test stars hope this month’s Australian tour by Super League clubs Wigan and Hull KR is a sign of things to come.
Wigan’s Sean O’Loughlin and South Sydney’s Tom Burgess face off against each other in a tour match at ANZ Stadium this Saturday as the second part of a double-header following the match between St George Illawarra and Hull KR.
O’Loughlin skippered Wigan to a win in the historic match against Hull at Wollongong last weekend in what was a round-two match in the UK’s Super League competition – the first time two Super League clubs played for points in Australia.
“From a players’ point of view, to get the opportunity to come over here and play is fantastic,” O’Loughlin told NRL.com.
“You don’t always get these opportunities during your career and when you do they don’t come as often as you like sometimes but from a playing perspective it’s been great to be a part of.
“As a Wigan brand and a Super League brand, for them to come over here and do what they’ve done, I think everyone involved has said it’s a great thing to do and hopefully it’s something that happens again in the future.
“Speaking to the people from Wigan that helped make it happen and to the people in Wollongong that were part of it as well, it’s been an 18-month process but they’ve done that now, they’ve made that step forward to something new. It’s something I’m sure Wigan will want to do as well and other teams as well.”
Burgess said the match was the chance of a lifetime for younger squad members and may encourage more player movement between the northern and southern hemispheres.
“It’s great that two teams are willing to do that and it’s growing the game as well, it’s showing people what the English Super League can do,” Burgess told NRL.com.
“How good, if you’re a young lad playing who’s just got in the squad in Hull or Wigan, and you get to go out to Australia and see what it’s like. It might spark a few things, players might want to come out here in a few years like me and my brothers did.
“Any trip away with teams is great. I loved the time back in 2015 we went over there and played St Helens in the World Club Challenge. Representing South Sydney back in England was one of the best things ever.
“Just any sort of travelling with the team, the boys love it. If we could do a series like this at the start of every year to integrate the two leagues it would be great.
“A few people are talking about if we’re not moving forward with the game we’re going to go backwards. I think it’s important that we start looking at other opportunities.”
Burgess also praised a mooted mid-season Test meeting between England and New Zealand in Denver in the US.
“I’m all for that. North America’s a great target audience for us I think, they love their sport and I’ve been out there a few times. Even if we could get Super League teams meeting NRL teams in America in the pre-season I’d be all for that,” he added.
O’Loughlin it would be a little strange facing off against England Test teammates in Sam, Tom and George Burgess – especially after having just spent eight weeks playing alongside Sam and Tom in the recent World Cup.
“They’re top players, when you get the chance to test yourself against top players like we will on Saturday it’s massive. It’s good for everyone involved,” O’Loughlin said.
“This kind of game coming up now on Saturday [against the Rabbitohs], I know it’s not for two points it’s still important for us.”
Having missed the round one win over Salford with a calf injury, he said he was now fully fit.