21 Feb 2020

World Club Challenge 2020: Talking Points

St Helens go in search of their third World Club Challenge title when they host Sydney Roosters at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Saturday.

Emotion. Passion. Intensity. 

The Betfred World Club Challenge is an event like no other.

The two best rugby league teams in the world go head-to-head for the right to be crowned World Club Champions.

This year, St Helens take on the current World Club Champions, Sydney Roosters.

The Roosters beat Wigan Warriors in last year's match, a victory that continued the recent trend of NRL dominance in this fixture.

Wigan were the last Super League side to win the World Club Challenge, defeating Cronulla Sharks 22-6 back in 2017.

However, St Helens look well-placed to bring the title back to England for the first time in three years.

They only lost three games on their way to the Super League title in 2019 and possess the firepower required to cause the Roosters problems on Saturday night.

But, as regular NRL viewers know, this Roosters side is more than capable of putting any team to the sword. 

To win back-to-back NRL titles is an impressive achievement, but you can see with their crop of players why they have been the first side this century to do so.

It is all setup for what will surely be a momentous occasion. 

First chance of silverware for Woolf 

Saturday's match is an early opportunity for Kristian Woolf to endear himself to the St Helens supporters. 

The 44-year-old has enjoyed a mixed start to life as Saints coach. 

An opening weekend thumping of Salford was followed by a damaging defeat to Warrington.

However, things got back on track last week with a win over early pacesetters, Hull FC. 

Victory over the Roosters would represent the most significant achievement of his short tenure so far and further reassure Saints fans that he is the man to take the club forward following Justin Holbrook's departure. 

Not that they need much convincing. 

Woolf's exploits with Tonga show his capabilities in these big matches, and I am sure he has every base covered heading into the match. 

He will know a win on Saturday could provide a huge amount of momentum for the rest of the Super League season.

Record-breaking Roosters or Saints hat-trick

The Roosters' win in 2019 was their fourth World Club Challenge, drawing them level Wigan Warriors.

Therefore, a success in 2020 will see them become World Champions for a record-breaking fifth time. 

Two of those previous titles have come against Saints. 

One back in 1976, which was the inaugural World Club Challenge.

More recently in 2003, where they put on a show, winning 38-0.

St Helens have a history of their own in World Club Challenges.

Both of their previous triumphs coming in 2001 and 2007 at the Reebok Stadium against Brisbane Broncos. 

The match in 2001 will be remembered for a thrilling comeback and two late drop-goals. 

At 18-6 behind, Saints had a mountain to climb but got back to 18-18 and Paul Sculthorpe and Sean Long kicked a drop-goal apiece to complete a famous victory.

In 2007, they were inspired by Sculthorpe and Ade Gardner as they edged a thrilling match, 18-14.

Sculthorpe scored a try and kicked three goals, while Gardner crossed for two tries of his own on a famous evening. 

A match of similar drama this weekend would be most welcome.

Front row battle 

The St Helens props of Luke Thompson and Alex Walmsley came in for praise from Adrian Morley earlier this week.

It is easy to see why. 

The pair have dominated all in their path over the last year.

Their performances in the Grand Final played a huge part in Saints' win.

Thompson's efforts have seen him attract attention from the NRL, and he will join Canterbury Bulldogs in 2021.

Before all that, he has one final year with Saints to earn more silverware, starting with the World Club Challenge. 

He and Walmsley might not find it as easy to dictate to this Roosters pack.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Siosiua Taukeiaho are a formidable duo of their own.

Waerea-Hargreaves is a Roosters legend and has a history in this iconic fixture, winning it on two previous occasions.

For all the flair players on show, the battle between these four world-class performers might decide the winners come the match at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

Hello Tedesco 

World Club Challenge, NRL Grand Final, State of Origin series, Wally Lewis Medal and Dally M Medal. 

James Tedesco won it all in 2019.

His try in the NRL Grand Final was the match-winner in the Roosters' 14-8 triumph over Canberra Raiders.

The Australian full-back is arguably the best player in the world at the moment and gets another opportunity to show off his talents to the Super League audience against St Helens. 

Be in no doubt, if Tedesco plays to anywhere near the level he is capable of, then Saints are in for a tough evening.

The Super League champions have plenty of game-changers of their own, even if they are without Lachlan Coote and Regan Grace.

Jonny Lomax has started the season in ominous fashion, and he will surely be a man that the Roosters have their eye on.

Then there is the legend that is James Roby - playing his first game of the season. 

There is simply so much quality on both sides.

By Oli Lathrope

The Betfred World Club Challenge is a huge night in Rugby League which sees the Super League Champions, St Helens take on the NRL Champions, Sydney Roosters. 

This year’s contest takes place at the Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens on Saturday 22 February (7:45pm KO). Secure your seat by visiting https://tickets.saintsrlfc.com/