The World Club Challenge has returned for the first time in three years and features back-to-back NRL premiers Penrith squaring off against Super League giants St Helens.
The English side have won four consecutive titles and will be making their eighth appearance in the showpiece event against Ivan Cleary’s men who will be aiming to claim their first WCC trophy in the club’s history.
When is the World Club Challenge?
The Panthers will welcome Saints to BlueBet Stadium on Saturday February 18th with kick-off scheduled for 6pm AEDT.
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The home side will be hoping it will be third time lucky for them after suffering defeats to Wigan and Bradford in the past.
Saints have two scalps to their name having beaten Brisbane in 2001 and again six years later.
Although they have struggled of late against the cream of the crop in the NRL, having lost to the Roosters 20-12 in the last edition of the match before the covid pandemic sidelined the contest.
How to watch Penrith vs St Helens
The entirety of the 2023 pre-season will be broadcast exclusively on Fox League and Kayo in Australia.
Meanwhile, in a first for fans in the UK, the WCC will be shown live on free-to-air through Channel 4 with regular broadcaster Sky Sports also televising the match.
|Australia||6pm AEDT||Fox League / Kayo|
|United Kingdom||7am GMT||Channel 4 / Sky Sports|
St Helens preview
Generally, the game has been hosted in England at the start of the NRL season but due to players commitments with the Rugby League World Cup and a shortened turnaround, this was deemed unfeasible.
Instead, Saints will become the first side since Leeds in 2018 to travel over to Australia for the match. Yet this will mark only the second time ever during the NRL era that the WCC will be hosted in Sydney after the Roosters did so in 2014 during their victory over Wigan.
The trip Down Under will be the first official game in charge for new coach Paul Wellens after former mentor Kristian Woolf returned to Australia to take up an assistant role at the Dolphins.
It will be an incredibly tall order for the hometown legend to claim his first win while in the hot seat though with bitter rivals Wigan currently the only English side to have triumphed in Australia. They famously beat the Broncos in 1994.
“Both ourselves and Penrith have had unrivalled success in recent years, and we are relishing the opportunity to go over to Australia and test ourselves against what is undoubtedly a great team,” Wellens said.
“We are obviously motivated by achieving further success and this gives us as a club an early opportunity to do exactly that in 2023.
“We aim to represent ourselves, the town of St Helens and the Super League competition in the best possible manner.”
Australia, the Saints are coming. 🇦🇺 @SuperLeague ✈️ @NRL #COYS | #HistoryInTheMaking pic.twitter.com/oFAv2FDxia
— St.Helens R.F.C. (@Saints1890) January 31, 2023
Saints’ chairman Eamonn McManus viewed the clash as a great opportunity to extend the club’s legacy.
“The 2023 season is the 150th anniversary of our club. The only attainable achievement which has eluded us during our history is to be crowned World Club Champions in Australia,” he said.
“Many consider this Penrith Panthers side to be one of, if not the, best side in the history of the NRL. Similarly, St Helens are experiencing an unparalleled period of success in Super League.
“The game in Sydney will represent one of the greatest challenges that St Helens has ever faced. We are really looking forward to meeting it head on.”
Penrith Panthers preview
Discussions around bringing back the WCC were held for a number of months before it was finally confirmed last year.
“It would have been impossible for us to go over there, but talk of them coming out here is excellent,” Penrith’s CEO Brian Fletcher said at the time.
“We’d love for it to happen. It will be a great game for our fans out at Penrith, it will be great for the area, it’s something different, and it will also give some of our younger boys the chance to have a run against a quality side.”
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A number of Panthers stars returned to training early in order to play in the match with the likes of playmakers Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai showcasing its importance.
If Cleary, Luai, Stephen Crichton, Spencer Leniu, Liam Martin, Izack Tago, Brian To’o and Isaah Yeo hadn’t forgone a week of their holidays, they would have been ineligible to play due to health and safety protocols.
These determine that every player must have at least six weeks’ worth of pre-season before they can compete in a professional match.