Captain Sean O’Loughlin has called on the DW Stadium faithful to power his side to victory as Wigan Warriors prepare to lock horns with the Sydney Roosters this weekend.
The Super League champions face off against the Australian NRL winners in the World Club Challenge in their home arena this Sunday, with the world’s two best rugby league sides going head-to-head.
It means the Warriors will need to call on the fine margins to claim the win, with O’Loughlin – who has spent his entire 17-year career the Warriors – feeling a packed crowd could give them the edge.
“It should be a great crowd and we are at home so it should be in our favour,” said the loose forward.
“From the players’ point of view, you just go out and play your best. What the crowd brings is that few per cent when they get behind you.
“It will feel like a final if it’s sold out and the majority of the crowd will be supporting us.
“What’s coming up is massive. You don’t get too many opportunities like it.
“It’s important you try to take those opportunity with both hands and I think both sides will buy into that.”
The Wigan squad have the pedigree to lift the trophy, having been victorious two years ago as they beat Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 22-6.
Winger Joe Burgess grabbed a hat-trick as the northern hemisphere side came out on top, also boasting the most wins of any team in the competition’s history with four.
Roosters are no slouches either, however, with three wins on their own as they look to draw level with their English rivals – but O’Loughlin is among those with other ideas.
“The current team won it in 2017 – after that it hit home what the competing means to the fans and the people of Wigan,” he said.
“We’ve won one now and there’s probably not many players who have won two World Clubs.
“The majority of our squad had the opportunity to do that.
“It will be enjoying the challenge we have and representing Wigan as best we can. It will be nice to go two clear of them if we get the win.”
Despite his drive to win, O’Loughlin is not expecting it to be easy.
The NRL champions have star names in their midst including Cooper Cronk, Boyd Cordner and James Tedesco.
But with rugby league and the Super League hitting new heights, O’Loughlin believes this contest is already something his club and city can be proud of – even before the first tackle is made.
The four-time Super League winner added: “Their team is littered with international players whether that’s New Zealand, Australia, a couple of Tongan and Samoan players in there as well. They’ve got tonnes of experience, as have we.
“International games are seen as the pinnacle of your career but you win the Grand Final in whichever hemisphere, you get a chance to test yourself against the other Grand Final winner.
“We are representing ourselves and representing Wigan but we are also representing super league and rugby league in England as a whole. I think it’s great for the worldwide game.
“NRL is very strong at the minute but for them to come and over here helps to spread the word about rugby league as well.”
Wigan Warriors take on the Sydney Roosters in World Club Challenge as the world’s two best rugby league sides go head-to-head at the DW Stadium on Sunday February 17th, kick-off 7pm. Secure your seat today by calling the DW Stadium ticket office on 01942 311111 or visiting https://wiganwarriors.com/tickets.
By Connor McLoughlin