We choose four key head-to-head battles that will take to the stage in Sunday’s World Club Challenge, 7pm kick-off.
Wigan Warriors host Sydney Roosters at the DW Stadium for the biggest prize in Club Rugby League.
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We’ve picked out four key battles for Sunday’s World Club Challenge as the Wigan Warriors take on the Sydney Roosters in the biggest game of Club Rugby League.
Tommy Leuluai vs Cooper Cronk
The Kiwi vs the Kangaroo. This battle of the halves will be a show-centre piece on the field, as two of the games most experienced players go head-to-head at the DW. The tough-headed Tommy Leuluai against the famous Cooper Cronk. Two playmakers preparing to take control of the World Club Challenge.
Tommy Leuluai has a vast amount of pedigree behind him. The former New Zealand international scrum-half has won everything there is to win with the Warriors, including the World Club Challenge (2017), Super League Grand Final (2010 and 2018), Challenge Cup (2011) and League Leaders’ Shield (2010 and 2012).
The 33-year-old is also a World Cup winner (2008) and a Harry Sunderland Trophy winner from his Man of the Match performance in the 2010 Grand Final against St Helens. Leuluai is enjoying a second highly successful spell with the Club, following his move from New Zealand Warriors in 2017. He first signed for Wigan in 2007 and left the club in 2013. Leuluai helped the Cherry and Whites to a record fourth World Club Challenge in 2017 and he will be hoping to do the same again on Sunday.
Cronk, 35, is an Australian half-back and arguably one of the best to ever grace the grass in rugby league. He has accomplished almost everything the game has to offer in his 15-year career so far, experiencing success at his former club, Melbourne Storm, his current team, Sydney Roosters and the Australian national side. Cronk has lifted three Premierships in 2012, 2017 and 2018, a World Championship with the Kangaroos and several State of Origin titles with Queensland.
He is also a two-time winner of the Dally M Medal, which is awarded to the best and fairest player in an NRL season and a Clive Churchill Medal winner, which is awarded to the best player in a Grand Final. Cronk was classed as one of the ‘heroes’ in the 2018 Grand Final victory over his former club, Melbourne. And he’s been included in Trent Robinson’s first 19-man squad of 2019 to help lead the Roosters to victory on English soil.
Who will dominate the pace of the game and guide their team to world glory?
Zak Hardaker vs James Tedesco
The full-back contest. A clash of pace, skill and creativity will be vital in a game of such magnitude. Who will rise to the big occasion?
Zak Hardaker has a huge amount of experience in the Word Club Challenge - something which may prove important for Adrian Lam’s side on Sunday evening. The 27-year-old is a former Man of Steel (2015) and has competed in two World Club Challenges with Leeds Rhinos. And despite losing one and winning the other, Hardaker’s big-game expertise and experience of being on both sides of the result spectrum will benefit the Warriors. Previewing Sunday’s showdown, he said: “I’ve played in quite a lot of high-profile games. “I love playing the Aussies, I find it a real challenge. No matter if I’m playing in one or watching at home, I always support the English team. Hopefully we put a few things right in training and get a big win.”
The full-back is a three-time Super League winner, two-time Challenge Cup winner and League Leaders’ Shield champion, and has been part of the Super League Dream Team on three occasions. A highly decorated player who has won all there is to win in the game…can he add to his collection with his new club on Sunday?
For the Roosters, James Tedesco is entering his second season with Sydney, following a sensational 2018. Last year, the full-back collected a Premiership ring, a Kangaroo call-up and a State of Origin triumph with New South Wales. And he will look to continue that impressive form in 2019, as he is named in the 19-man squad for the Roosters’ first game of the year.
Tedesco is also a NSW Brad Fittler medal winner, which is the best Blues State of Origin player award. He has played seven times for New South Wales and scored three tries. Before joining the Roosters, the 26-year-old played for Wests Tigers between 2012 and 2017. He made 90 appearances for the Tigers and scored a stand-out total of 50 tries. Tedesco is also a duel-code international having represented both Italy and Australia. A clear threat in attack, the Warriors will need to be wary of Tedesco’s quick feet and smart skills.
Sean O’Loughlin vs Boyd Cordner
The anticipated clash between two of the toughest and finest forwards in the world, Boyd Cordner and Sean O’Loughlin, will take place at the DW. The two Test match captains go head-to-head with the mindset of leading their teams to victory and lifting the World Club Challenge trophy come 9pm on Sunday night. But who will prevail?
Loose forward, Sean O’Loughlin, is one of the most consistent and inspirational players of the Super League era and captain of both Club and Country. A Wigan man through and through, O’Loughlin is revered by colleagues and opposition players alike, with many pointing to him as one of the modern greats. Since making his debut for the Cherry and Whites in 2002, he’s won everything at club level, including four Super League Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups and League Leaders’ Shield’s - and not forgetting the famous 2017 World Club Challenge.
O’Loughlin featured in the 2014 World Club Challenge defeat Down Under to the Roosters. He is one of just five current Wigan players to remain from the 17-man squad that featured at the Allianz Stadium five years ago. O’Loughlin has represented Great Britain and England, and has been named in the Super League Dream Team more than anyone else - a record seven times. Undoubtedly and simply one of the best, the Wigan team will look at O’Loughlin to lead them to victory and a record fifth World Club Challenge trophy.
Like O’Loughlin, Boyd Cordner is a one-man club captain and he appeared for the Roosters in the 2014 World Club Challenge win. Since joining in 2011, Cordner has gone on to play 149 times for Sydney, amassing 41 tries. The second row is the captain of the Australian national side and New South Wales. He guided both club and state to the ultimate triumphs last year, beating Melbourne in the NRL Grand Final and overcoming Queensland in the State of Origin. The 26-year-old also captained the Kangaroos for two test matches in 2018.
Cordner is a vital part of the Roosters squad and his leadership skills will be significant in a hostile DW Stadium atmosphere which, the majority of fans, will cheer on the home side. His experience of winning two NRL Premierships and two State of Origins will be key for the Roosters’ hopes of starting 2019 with major success.
Liam Marshall vs Brett Morris
The battle of the wingers. The youngster against the veteran. Marshall vs Morris. An intriguing contest will occur on Sunday as 22-year-old Liam Marshall comes up against 32-year-old Brett Morris. Two gifted wingers but a 10-year difference. Who will perform under the pressure?
Marshall came through the Wigan Academy and made his Super League debut in March 2017. Renowned for his acrobatic diving style when scoring tries, the winger is an entertainer on the pitch. He scored 39 tries in his first two years in the First Team. A dream debut season resulted in 23 tries in 24 games and a joint winner of Wigan’s Young Player of the Year award.
Marshall had another excellent season in 2018, scoring 16 tries in 21 games and signing a new four-year deal with the Club. An August ACL injury cut short his year though and he had to watch the Warriors from the side-lines at Old Trafford in October. But now he is back and has featured in the opening two BETFRED Super League games. Can he use his youthful assets to inspire his side to victory?
Brett Morris is an accomplished winger who has had most of his success at the St George-Illawarra Dragons. He started his career at the Dragons in 2006 and went on to make 170 appearances, scoring a mammoth total of 112 tries. Morris then made the move to Canterbury Bulldogs in 2015, where he played 68 games and scored 34 tries. His glamorous NRL career has seen him sign for Sydney Roosters for the 2019 campaign.
And despite him still waiting to make his Roosters debut, Morris is one of the veteran backline players in the Sydney squad. He has represented New South Wales in 15 State of Origin matches and has featured in 18 tests for the Australian Kangaroos, scoring 23 tries. After winning the NRL Premiership in 2010, the Australian scored twice against Wigan in the 2011 Word Club Challenge win for St George-Illawarra at the DW Stadium. He returns to the same stadium eight years later on Sunday.
Wigan Warriors take on the Sydney Roosters in the BETFRED World Club Challenge as the world’s two best rugby league sides go head-to-head at the DW Stadium on Sunday February 17th, kick-off 7pm. Secure your seat today by calling the DW Stadium ticket office on 01942 311111 or visiting https://wiganwarriors.com/tickets.