The World Club Series kicks off on Friday night as St Helens entertain the 2015 NRL Minor Premiership winners Sydney Roosters at Langtree Park.
It’s almost a year since the last visit of a side from Sydney, as the Roosters’ fierce rivals South Sydney Rabbitohs hammered Saints 39-0 in the World Club Challenge to cap a 3-0 series whitewash for the Aussies.
They will be hoping to put in a better performance this time out, however their 44-10 defeat to Salford Red Devils at the AJ Bell Stadium wasn’t ideal preparation.
Marwan Koukash’s Red Devils produced a brilliant display to brush aside the much fancied visitors, with Keiron Cunningham hinting that some of the players didn’t deserve to wear the Saints shirt that night.
It will be the first hit-out of the Roosters pre-season campaign ahead of the start of the NRL season in March, although they did feature in the Auckland Nines competition, but didn’t progress from the group stages.
It has been an eventful off-season off the field for the Australian outfit though, after captain Mitchell Pearce was videoed mimicking a sex act on a dog. His drunken Australia Day antics cost him his place in the World Club Series squad as the club suspended him pending an investigation, and handed the captaincy to hooker Jake Friend.
Saints were dealt the huge blow of losing James Roby during their round one victory over Huddersfield Giants, and then star centre Mark Percival picked up a knee injury in their defeat to Salford.
They have been boosted by the return of Dominique Peyroux though and Travis Burns is set to make his first appearance of 2016, with Cunningham looking at the option of running the halfback at number nine.
The Roosters have injury problems of their own as Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Boyd Cordner are missing from their forward pack.
There could be a debut for former Wigan Warriors winger Joe Burgess following his move down under, with Dale Copley, Mitchell Frei and Jayden Nikorima also looking for their first run out in a Sydney shirt.
After last year’s whitewash the Super League clubs will be out to prove that they can compete with their Australian counterparts, however the odds are stacked against them.
Saints will need to boss the middle of the field if they are to be successful and target their opponents below full strength pack, although Dylan Napa, Sam Moa, Mitchell Aubusson and co. will have something to say about that.
They will need to drastically improve on their dismal performance in Salford and their performance last year if they, and the rest of Super League, are to put up any resistance against the best of the NRL.
St Helens 19 man squad
Tommy Makinson, Jordan Turner, Adam Swift, Travis Burns, Luke Walsh, Alex Walmsley, Kyle Amor, Atelea Vea, Jon Wilkin, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lama Tasi, Greg Richards, Andre Savelio, Luke Thompson, Dominique Peyroux, Theo Fages, Joe Greenwood, Jack Owens, Morgan Knowles
Sydney Roosters 19 man squad
Mitchell Aubusson, Joe Burgess, Dale Copley, Kane Evans, Blake Ferguson, Mitchell Frei, Jake Friend, Aidan Guerra, Jackson Hastings, Ian Henderson, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Vincent Leuluai, Isaac Liu, Latrell Mitchell, Sam Moa, Dylan Napa, Jayden Nikorima, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Daniel Tupou