Rugby League: Expanded World Club Series unveiled

Sydney Roosters celebrate winning the ''2014 World Club Challenge.
Sydney Roosters celebrate winning the ''2014 World Club Challenge.
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Six teams will take part in an expanded World Club Challenge in 2015, it has been announced.

The annual clash between the First Utility Super League champions and the Telstra NRL Premiers will again take centre stage next February but the two Grand Final winners will be joined by two other clubs from each competition.

The newly-titled World Club Series will be played in the UK over three days from Friday, February 20, to Sunday, February 22, climaxing in the World Club Challenge.

South Sydney Rabbitohs and Brisbane Broncos have already confirmed their involvement, even if they fail to win next month’s NRL Grand Final, and the NRL say other clubs have expressed an interest in taking part.

Super League will be represented by the two 2014 Grand Finalists and the third-highest ranked team, which means three from six at present.

Super League general manager Blake Solly said: “We are delighted to be hosting the World Club Series here in England and are very excited about the opportunity to build and expand on what is an already outstanding concept.

“It is a chance for the teams to go head-to-head in battle before huge crowds to show which is the best competition and who are the best clubs in the world.”

The NRL clubs will still be in pre-season while Super League, due to kick off on the weekend of February 7, will take a break to allow the Series to take centre stage. Venues will be announced once the teams are known.

The World Club Challenge has only ever been contested by four Super League clubs - Bradford, St Helens, Leeds and Wigan - although Widnes won it in 1989, 11 years before it was established on the international calendar.

Brisbane lost to St Helens in their only appearance in 2007, although they were winners over Wigan in 1992 and also triumphed in the 1997 World Club Championship, which featured all 22 clubs in the Australasian and European Super League clubs.

Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin, whose side lost to Sydney Roosters in Australia earlier this year, welcomed the expansion.

“Having played in a couple of World Club Challenge games during my career I know just how good it is to test ourselves against the best club sides from the NRL,” he said.

“The new expanded competition looks very exciting and we can’t wait to be a part of it.”

NRL head of football Todd Greenberg said: “Australian fans already love seeing the Premiers go up against the best of Britain - but having three teams from each competition will really add to the excitement.”

Anthony Mullally

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