AFTER A month of uncertainty, the World Club Challenge between Leeds Rhinos and Australian champions Melbourne Storm has been confirmed for Friday, February 16 at Melbourne’s AAMI Park (8pm local time, 9am GMT).
Rhinos will take on storm just eight days after a Betfred Super League clash with Hull KR at Elland Road and nine days before a visit to Widnes Vikings.
It will be only the third time the contest has been staged Down Under and Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington said: “Winning the World Club Challenge is the ultimate achievement for all Super League and NRL teams and we are excited to be going to Melbourne to take on the best club team I have seen.”
He added: “Leeds Rhinos and Melbourne Storm have been rugby league’s two most successful teams over the past 20 years and it’s fitting for us to come together for the fourth time in the World Club Challenge. Each of the other three games in Leeds have been terrific contests and coming to Melbourne represents our biggest ever challenge. A victory would be the pinnacle in our club’s 128-year history. We hope all the English living in Melbourne come along to support the Rhinos and our fans who visit the city will have a memorable experience.”
Storm had refused to travel to England and are due to send a team to Rotorua to face New Zealand Warriors in a pre-season game the following day, but have pledged to field their strongest side against Rhinos and chief executive Dave Donaghy said: “There’s no better venue or city to host a game that decides the world’s best rugby league team than AAMI Park and Melbourne – Australia’s sporting capital.
“It will be fantastic to see rugby league take centre stage again at AAMI Park, having hosted record Storm crowds and the Rugby League World Cup in 2017.
“I know our Storm members and fans as well as the sports enthusiast will come out to support their Premiership winning team and to see some of the world’s best players take the field.
“Our football department is looking forward to the challenge of being back playing for the World Club Challenge trophy and testing themselves against the current Super League champions.”
Rugby Football League chief commercial officer and Super League executive Roger Draper said: “The World Club Challenge is long established as one of the biggest clashes in club rugby league and we are excited that Leeds Rhinos are travelling to Melbourne to represent the Betfred Super League and to take on the current NRL champions at their home ground.
“Super League (Europe) Ltd and the NRL have worked closely with both clubs to ensure the 2018 World Club Challenge takes place and we are hopeful this will be one of the biggest and best ever held.
“Both clubs were worthy champions and I am sure they will provide fantastic entertainment in Melbourne in February.”