Who is the best team in the world? Can Super League reign victorious over the NRL or will Sydney take the World Champions title back to Australia? Here’s everytihng you need to know about Sunday’s World Club Challenge.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Wigan have started their 2019 with one win and one loss, after a two points deduction before the start of the season. After suffering a 22-12 defeat against rivals St Helens in round 1, last week saw the Warriors put in a strong performance against a below-par Leeds side, coming away with a 34-16 win.
With the NRL season not yet underway, the Roosters have shown that they have taken this WCC seriously. They’ve come over to the UK early and played controlled, warm-up games against Toulouse and St Helens.
Wigan head coach Adrian Lam will be without wingers Joe Burgess and Dom Manfredi, both through knee injuries, but has included centre Dan Sarginson, despite suffering with an ankle injury.
The Warriors will be looking to claim victory to make them the first club to win 5 World Club Challenge. A Wigan win would also see Sean O’Loughlin become the first Wigan captain to win two WCCs, after captaining them to victory over Cronulla two years ago.
Wigan 19-man squad:
Bullock, Clubb, Davies, Escare, Farrell, Flower, Gildart, Greenwood, Hamlin, Hardaker, Isa, Leuluai, Marshall, Navarrete, O’Loughlin, Powell, Sarginson, Tautai, Williams.
The Roosters have included new signings Brett Morries and Ryan Hall in the squad but it is believed that Hall has just travelled with the squad and is unlikely to feature. Latrell Mitchell opted to play for the Indigenous All-Stars back home instead of travelling to the UK.
Cooper Cronk is set to make his return after injuring his shoulder in the NRL Grand Final back in October and playing on in heroic fashion. A Sydney win would give them four WCCs, tied with Wigan.
Aubusson, Butcher, Collins, Cordner (c), Crichton, Cronk, Faamausili, Friend (c), Hall, Ikuvalu, Keary, Kepaoa, Lam, Liu, Manu, Morris, Radley, Taukeiaho, Tedesco, Tetevano, Tupou, Tupouniua, Waerea-Hargreaves.
HEAD TO HEAD
In recent years, the NRL side have had the best record, winning eight out of the last ten contests. The Roosters are unbeaten in all three of their previous WCCs in 1976, 2003 and 2014.
Wigan may have the most wins in the WCC with 4 but they have suffered three losses also. The two sides have only ever met once in the WCC in 2014, with Sydney coming out on top, with a 36-14 win at the Allianz Stadium.
Zak Hardaker (Wigan) v James Tedesco (Sydney)
Zak Hardaker still has a lot to prove in terms of if he is worthy of another chance at his RL career. This will be his toughest test of the season so far as he faces off against arguably one of the best players in the sport, Roosters fullback James Tedesco.
Tedesco’s 2018 season was impressive. After joining the Roosters from the West Tigers in the close season, he flourished under head coach Trent Robinson and managed to improve even more. Now one of the first names on the teamsheet if available, he won the NSW player of the series after State of Origin.
Hardaker has an incredible record but obviously this has been diminished because of the baggage he brings with him. Winning 8 trophies in his time at Leeds and Castleford, we know when he plays to his full potential, he can be a match for anyone. If he can find that form once again, Wigan will have pulled off a great signing.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 17th February
Venue: DW Stadium
Kick-off: 7pm GMT
Referee: Robert Hicks
WHO WILL WIN?
Wigan need this victory; they need to prove that despite an indifferent start to their 2019 Super League season, they still have what it takes to beat the best. This will be a tight victory and I would love to see Wigan win for the whole of Super League but Sydney have so much talent across the park that I can’t see anything but a Roosters victory.