O'Loughlin: Depth of talent giving Australia the edge
Wigan Warriors captain Sean O'Loughlin believes depth of talent is the main reason why English rugby league has been unable to keep up with the Australian product.
England narrowly missed out on beating Australia in last year's World Cup final, suffering a 6-0 loss in a game in which they spent long periods camped on the Kangaroos' line.
With numerous former Super League players having excelled in Australia - four more have switched to the NRL in the close-season - and the competitive performance produced by England at the World Cup, the gap between the two countries would appear to be narrowing.
But O'Loughlin, speaking to Omnisport at the Super League launch, said: "There's always players over here that can go over there and excel and that's been shown by the lads that have gone over there and done that.
"Where we've been behind is the number of those kind of lads. Our top sides have proven we can compete with their top sides, I think where we've behind is that depth of squad and that standard of game week in and week out."
Wigan start their season against Salford Red Devils before facing Hull FC for the first Super League game in Australia and the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the World Club Series.
After winning the Super League title in 2016, Wigan endured a disappointing 2017 as they finished sixth, missing out on the play-offs while losing in the Challenge Cup final.
O'Loughlin, though, believes the unusual opening to the campaign will be of benefit to a young Wigan squad.
He added: "The boys are excited to be part of the first Super League game over there, taking that somewhere different, pushing boundaries a little bit, hopefully expanding our game, getting new viewers in there.
"It's great to be a part of, obviously a trip to Australia is always going to be nice in the middle of our winter.
"I think the lads who haven't been involved internationally, who haven't had opportunities to play over there, it's an experience they'll really take a lot from.
"Hopefully numbers wise we'll take a lot [of fans] out there, it would be good to see some of those Australia fans get out there and see the game as well.
"It's a good opportunity for us to showcase the game, to package that atmosphere from the terraces and take that over there, I think the Aussie fans will enjoy that as well."
Of the challenge posed by the Rabbitohs, he added: "To get a chance to play against some of the top players like the Burgess boys and Greg Inglis, some of the players they've got, to be involved against them, it's good to test yourself.
"Some of the lads on the younger end of the scale, for them to get that experience, everything that comes with the travel, is something that will hopefully develop them."