We find out who the best club rugby league side on the planet is on Sunday evening when the Wigan Warriors play host to the Sydney Roosters as the Super League champions meet the NRL winners in the World Club Challenge at the DW Stadium.
Wigan have begun their season in Super League whereas the Roosters are around a month away from beginning their NRL title defence so it might be that the English champions have a bit of an advantage heading into the game.
The home side should be bang up to speed for this match after tough battles with St Helens and Leeds Rhinos in their Super League campaign so far. They were beaten by St Helens but they came through against the Rhinos and looked better in the second match than they did in the first, which suggests that they are warming to the job under new coach Adrian Lam.
Although they came through against Leeds last week, Wigan didn’t look massively impressive, and looked a little more open in defence than we are used to seeing from them. That would be fine if their attacking play has completely improved but there isn’t much evidence that it is a huge amount better than under Shaun Wane so they are going to need their best performance of the campaign here.
This will be the first competitive outing of the year for the Sydney Roosters but unlike some Australian sides in the past, there is no obvious suggestion that they are taking things lightly here. You would think that if they can last out the 80 minutes there is definitely enough quality in their ranks to get the job done here, however impressive they are in doing so.
As with all Australian sides we can expect plenty of muscle and mite in defence from the Sydney side and a wonderful kicking game too which should allow them to control the field position. What the Roosters have to guard against is a complacency with the ball in hand. If they keep errors to the minimum then there is no doubt in my eyes that they are comfortably the better of the two teams.
The Super League champions are without standout wingers Dom Manfredi and Joe Burgess due to injury but Dan Sarginson is expected to pass a fitness test to take his place in the big match despite an ankle issue.
One man well known to English crowds for the Sydney Roosters is former Leeds Rhinos winger Ryan Hall and he has been included in the squad for this game along with Brett Morris. Cooper Cronk, Boyd Cordner and James Tedesco are standout names in the Roosters squad.
Super League clubs have only won two of the last 10 World Club Challenge finals and didn’t fare any better when the format was extended to bring more than one match to proceedings. Since Australian sides really took it seriously, Super League clubs have taken some pretty nasty beatings. The last three NRL wins have been 39-0, 38-4 and 38-4 highlighting the clear gulf between the two leagues.
This renewal should be closer than that due to the slightly earlier nature of the event but I’m still not expecting Wigan to win the match. I think the Sydney Roosters look a crack hot outfit and with the likes of Cooper Cronk leading them around the pitch and plenty of potent backs to take advantage of the opportunities that will be created I see the Aussies running out winners by at least a couple of scores.
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