Wigan looking to buck trend against Broncos in World Club Series

On Saturday night, Shaun Wane’s Wigan Warriors take on Wayne Bennett’s Brisbane Broncos in the second match of the 2016 Dacia World Club Series, and a re-boot of last year’s encounter. In 2015, the Broncos won bragging rights with a narrow victory over the Warriors, squeaking through at the DW Stadium by 14 points to 12.

Of the three English clubs competing in the series, many believe Wigan have the best chance of putting one over on the Aussie visitors. Last year’s inaugural tournament was a 3-0 whitewash in favour of the NRL teams, and the World Club Challenge itself was last won by an English outfit in 2012. Hopes are high in the North West that the cherry and whites will restore some pride for English rugby.

Wigan are the early season pacesetters in Super League, grinding out a win over the Catalans Dragons at the DW stadium in atrocious conditions, and making it two from two at Huddersfield Giants with a last-gasp victory in their most recent outing. Both wins were hard-fought, and Wane is confident his battle-hardened Warriors will be ready to fight by the time Brisbane visit the DW.

Fight may well be the operative word. Wane plans to harness the disappointment of 2015 to fuel the competitive fire of his young squad and draw genuine aggression from his charges. “I have a video of what happened last year and I plan to show it to them this week, to remind them that no matter how hard they fought, they ended up with nothing. I want to remind my players what it was like to lose.”

Having missed out on the Super League title in 2014 and by just two points in 2015, the Warriors squad is hungrier than ever. Halfback George Williams is a great example of the kind of ambitious, young player that is in abundance at the DW Stadium, and should be fit for the Brisbane game. When he’s able to link up with Matty Smith, the Warriors find their rhythm.

Sean O’Loughlin will skipper Wigan on Saturday and is continuing his good run of form after captaining England to test series glory against New Zealand in the Baskerville Shield earlier this year.

The Wigan pack is also buoyed by the news that prop Ben Flower has committed to the club until 2020 and will also be available for the Brisbane showdown. The club managed to stave off overtures from both Super League and NRL clubs for the 28 year old’s services.

After a 2015 blighted by injury, winger Josh Charnley is back in the side and was quick to rediscover his scoring touch with the winning try at Huddersfield. His defensive work was also valuable and could secure him a start against the Broncos. On the opposite flank, Dom Manfredi was prolific last season and gives the Warriors additional pace.

Newly appointed England coach and Broncos head honcho Wayne Bennett has confirmed his squad for Saturday, with four changes from the grand final side.

James Roberts, a new signing from the Gold Coast Titans, replaces Justin Hodges (retired) and offers Brisbane lightning speed and proven tryscoring ability. Greg Eden will make his long-awaited debut on Saturday night. The winger, once hailed as the next Billy Slater, has only played for feeder club Wynnum Manly Seagulls and will be keen to make a statement.

Kiwi Kodi Nikorima can be a game changer and will link up with Anthony Milford in the halves. Their input will be hugely influential and could well decide the game’s outcome.

Prop Josh Maguire returns after a season ending Achilles injury back in June last year and will be looking to re-establish himself in the side with a dominant performance against Wigan’s forwards.

Bennett is yet to name a captain with the smart money on Corey Parker after Sam Thaiday turned down the offer.  Fullback Darius Boyd is an outside bet having re-dedicated himself after becoming a father for the first time.

Both sides play a physical, high tempo brand of rugby league with speed and fortitude in abundance – particularly in the forwards. This will be a close fought battle and Shaun Wane’s young side will be desperate to settle the score after last year’s narrow defeat. However, unlike the other two NRL sides involved in the series, the Broncos team knows what to expect from a visit to the DW stadium having played there last year. This unique insight gives the Australian team a significant advantage. They’ll be fired up and their pace and creativity is likely to see them through to victory.


Wigan Warriors: Bateman, Burke, Charnley, Clubb, Farrell, Flower, Gelling, Gildart, Isa, Manfredi, McIlorum, O’Loughlin, Powell, Sarginson, Smith, Sutton, Tautai, Tierney, Williams

Brisbane Broncos: Adam Blair, Darius Boyd, Greg Eden, Herman Ese’ese, Matt Gillett, Alex Glenn, Jordan Kahu, Andrew McCullough, Josh McGuire, Anthony Milford, Kodi Nikorima, Corey Oates, Joe Ofahengaue, Tom Opacic, Corey Parker, James Roberts, Sam Thaiday, Travis Waddell, Jarrod Wallace

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