In­jured O’Lough­lin ruled out of World Cup fi­nal

Weekend Herald - - Cricket - AAP

Eng­land’s hopes of up­set­ting the Kan­ga­roos in tonight’s Rugby League World Cup fi­nal have been dealt a huge blow af­ter skip­per Sean O’Lough­lin ruled him­self out last night with a quadri­cep in­jury.

Sam Burgess takes over as skip­per from the sec­ond row at Sun­corp Sta­dium, with Ben Cur­rie start­ing on the edge and util­ity Jonny Lo­max added to the bench.

O’Lough­lin i s the sec­ond key player coach Wayne Ben­nett has lost in a week, fol­low­ing star hooker Josh Hodg­son’s torn ACL in their semi­fi­nal win over Tonga.

Burgess, who led Eng­land in last year’s Four Na­tions tour­na­ment, said it was bit­ter­sweet to be handed the reins in the cir­cum­stances but de­clared his team had “an un­be­liev­able op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing spe­cial”.

“It’s un­for­tu­nate for Sean. He’s been a huge part of our suc­cess this cam­paign and over the last 12 months as well,” Burgess said.

“Ob­vi­ously it’s a huge loss. I’m re­ally dis­ap­pointed for Sean and Josh. Not many peo­ple are talk­ing about Josh as well.

“What he’s brought to the Eng­land side over the past three to four years has been fan­tas­tic. We’ll lose t wo se­nior boys, great play­ers.”

Burgess said he en­joyed the re­spon­si­bil­ity of lead­ing his coun­try.

“It’s a job I don’t take lightly. I love be­ing in this po­si­tion. I don’t think it gets much bet­ter than a World Cup fi­nal as well. It’ll be a spe­cial mo­ment,” he said.

“Sean’s been the cap­tain the whole tour­na­ment and to take the cap­taincy in this sit­u­a­tion can be bit­ter­sweet but when the time comes [ tonight], all those feel­ings will be gone.”

The in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment is Burgess’ third in four years, in­clud­ing his mixed stint for Eng­land in the 2015

Rugby Union World Cup.

He was also part of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, when Eng­land were knocked out in the semi­fi­nals by New Zealand.

“We got out of the group stages [ this time], which does help. The 2013 World Cup was pretty tough los­ing in the semis. We’ve come a step fur­ther this time. I think we de­serve to be here,” he said.

“Now we’re here, we’ve got an un­be­liev­able op­por­tu­nity as a group to do some­thing spe­cial.

“What we’ve al­ready cre­ated i s fan­tas­tic but we’re still one job off do­ing what we came here to do.”

Aus­tralia cap­tain Cameron Smith hinted the fi­nal could be a farewell for a num­ber of Kan­ga­roos — in­clud­ing him­self.

Smith and Billy Slater, the only sur­vivors of Aus­tralia’s 2008 World Cup team, have re­fused to com­mit to play­ing on in the green and gold be­yond the de­cider.

Slater has al­ready ad­mit­ted the fi­nal could be his last test.

“If it’s [ Slater’s] last game, we all want to make it a spe­cial mo­ment for him and his fam­ily. He hasn’t in­di­cated to my­self or the team that this would be his last game,” Smith said yes­ter­day.

How­ever, Slater may not be the only one farewelling the na­tional jumper, with Smith sug­gest­ing there were un­cer­tain fu­tures for a num­ber of Kan­ga­roos vet­er­ans.

Slater and Smith, both 34, and 33- year- old half­back Cooper Cronk are the only play­ers in coach Mal Meninga’s side fea­tur­ing at Sun­corp Sta­dium over the age of 30.

“I think there’s a ques­tion mark over a few of the guys in the side at the mo­ment,” Smith said.

“We’re all get­ting a lit­tle bit older now and whether this will be our last game, I don’t think any­one’s made any clear de­ci­sion or in­di­ca­tion to any­one.”

Meninga con­ceded it would be typ­i­cal of Slater to have al­ready made a de­ci­sion on his in­ter­na­tional fu­ture but avoid drag­ging at­ten­tion away from the oc­ca­sion.

Aus­tralia haven’t won a World Cup on home soil since 1977.

“If it was to be Billy’s last game, it’d be nice to know in­ter­nally for us be­cause we want to cel­e­brate that, we want to ac­knowl­edge that if that’s the case,” Meninga said.

“But he hasn’t come to us with a de­ci­sion, so I’m as­sum­ing he’s go­ing to keep on play­ing.”

It’s un­for­tu­nate for Sean. He’s been a huge part of our suc­cess this cam­paign. It’s a huge loss. Sam Burgess

Pic­ture / AAP

Sean O’Lough­lin has a quadri­cep in­jury. By Matt En­car­na­cion

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