Sam Burgess leads England in Saturday's World Cup final after Sean O'Loughlin is forced out
Last Updated: 01/12/17 6:53pm
Sam Burgess will lead England in Saturday's World Cup final against Australia after Sean O'Loughlin was ruled out through injury.
Burgess captained England in O'Loughlin's absence in the 2016 Four Nations Series and will step in once more after the Wigan loose forward failed to recover from a quad tear in last Saturday's semi-final victory over Tonga.
"It's not nice for him," said England assistant coach Denis Betts. "He obviously wants to be involved in this game as captain of the team.
"We have to move on. Sam led the side last year in the Four Nations, he's a doer, he's a leader, he's captain of his club. It's always been that natural progression that, if something happened to Lockers, that Sam would take that role on."
Burgess will also switch to O'Loughlin's loose forward role, with Ben Currie promoted to the starting line-up in the second row and Jonny Lomax brought in on the bench.
Burgess, who has experience of captaining South Sydney, admits he had mixed feelings over his appointment and says he will ask O'Loughlin to lift the trophy if England end their 45-year wait for a World Cup win.
"It's unfortunate for Sean, who has been a huge part of our success in this campaign," the former Bradford forward said. "He's a fantastic player to have in the team so it's obviously a huge loss.
"It's fantastic for me. It's a job I don't take lightly. I love being in this position. I don't think it gets much better than the World Cup final and it will be a special moment, although it's kind of bitter-sweet if I'm honest.
"Sean has been captain the whole tournament and he'll lift the trophy if we get to that situation."
O'Loughlin was given a 50-50 chance earlier in the week by head coach Wayne Bennett and Betts, who was the last man to lead England into a World Cup final in 1995, says the final decision was taken by the player himself.
"We've given him every chance and he's given himself every chance by working really hard with our medical team," Betts said.
"He pushed himself as hard as he possibly could but the final decision probably came to Lockers himself. He knows his body, he knows when he's ready to play in this kind of game.
"It might have been the easiest thing to do to bite down on his gum shield and get out on the field but he's made a real brave call. He's not right and he's decided to not be in the team.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, World Cup finals don't come around too often and it was a real tough decision for Sean and the medical team."
Team: G Widdop; J McGillvary, K Watkins, J Bateman, R Hall; K Brown, L Gale; C Hill, J Roby, J Graham, B Currie, E Whitehead, S Burgess.
Interchange: A Walmsley, T Burgess, C Heighington, J Lomax.