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St Helens vs Sydney Roosters

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The World Club Series kicks off on Friday night with St Helens hosting Sydney Roosters with the NRL side hoping to do the talking on the pitch amid off the field controversy.

The NRL club have endured a turbulent build-up to their new season with Mitchell Pearce’s career in limbo, along with the departures of stars Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney and Michael Jennings.

The Roosters will have to cope without the services of enforcers Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Boyd Cordner for not only the World Club challenge but potentially the opening ten rounds of the NRL.

St Helens meanwhile, will want to right the wrong of the last time they featured in the then called World Club Challenge when they were humbled 39-0 by an impressive South Sydney Rabbitohs.

That said the Saints come into this crunch clash on the back of being thrashed 44-10 away at Salford Red Devils. A game which saw Saints coach Keiron Cunningham slam the tackle on Mark Percival which will now see the centre be out for at least three months with a serious knee injury.

Dominique Peyroux and Travis Burns have been included in the 19-man squad to take on the Roosters but James Roby has lost his fitness battle and misses out.

Burns, who has been overlooked in the opening stages of Super League, looks set to feature at hooker whilst Lama Tasi is facing off against his former club where he made 30 appearances between 2011 and 2013.

Sydney Roosters coached by former Catalans coach, Trent Robinson look set to unleash the most inexperienced half-back pairing in the NRL for the first time in Jayden Nikorima and Jackson Hastings. The latter took to the field at the end of last season standing in for the injured Pearce to his credit whilst the 19-year-old Nikorima left Brisbane Broncos for pastures new.

No stranger to Super League nor the St Helens side, former Wigan Warriors Joe Burgess is in line to make his debut for the club.

St Helens: Tommy Makinson, Jordan Turner, Adam Swift, Travis Burns, Luke Walsh, Alex Walmsley, Kyle Amor, Atelea Vea, Jon Wilkin, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lama Tasi, Greg Richards, Andre Savelio, Luke Thompson, Dominique Peyroux, Theo Fages, Joe Greenwood, Jack Owens, Morgan Knowles.

Sydney Roosters: Aidan Guerra, Blake Ferguson, Brendan Elliot, Dale Copley, Daniel Tupou, Dylan Napa, Ian Henderson, Isaac Liu, Jackson Hastings, Jake Friend, Jayden Nikorima, Joe Burgess, Kane Evans, Latrell Mitchell, Mitchell Aubusson, Mitchell Frei, Sam Moa, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Siua Taukeiaho, Tyler Cornish, Vincent Leuluai.

Prediction: Sydney Roosters by 16

Published on February 18 2016 for Rugby AM.

Wigan Warriors vs Brisbane Broncos
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Wigan Warriors will be hoping to gain revenge over Brisbane Broncos when the two sides come face-to-face at the DW Stadium on Saturday.

The two cross-continent teams met in the World Club Series last year with the Broncos edging a 14-12 win with Corey Parker’s golden point penalty sealing the victory – despite the best efforts of Anthony Gelling.

Wayne, Bennett’s side were on course to end their longest title drought leading 16-12 in the Grand Final against North Queensland Cowboys but in the final seconds of the game Michael Morgan scored for the Cowboys. Johnathan Thurston missed the resulting conversion, striking the post, but in golden point extra-time the iconic half-back wrote his name further in rugby league folk law by slotting over the Premiership winning point.

Nevertheless the Broncos travel to England hoping to go one better this year and end their silverware drought but come up against a Wigan team with a 100% record so far in Super League.

The Warriors have won both their matches against Catalans Dragons and Huddersfield Giants and have kept faith with the same 19-man squad which beat the Giants.

Their only injury concern was young half-back George Williams but he has been named despite being a late withdrawal last week.

Brisbane Broncos have named a star-laden team for their game at the DW Stadium which includes the likes of Anthony Milford, Corey Parker, Adam Blair and Sam Thaiday. The newly-appointed England coach, Bennett has also named former Huddersfield and Hull KR winger Greg Eden in his team with the back likely to make his debut for the Broncos.

Wigan Warriors: John Bateman, Gregg Burke, Josh Charnley, Tony Clubb, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Anthony Gelling, Oliver Gildart, Willie Isa, Dom Manfredi, Michael McIlorum, Sean O¹Loughlin, Sam Powell, Dan Sarginson, Matty Smith, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Lewis Tierney, George Williams

Brisbane Broncos: Darius Boyd, Greg Eden, Jordan Kahu, James Roberts, Corey Oates, Anthony Milford, Kodi Nikorima, Sam Thaiday, Andrew McCullough, Adam Blair, Alex Green, Matt Gillett, Corey Parker, Jarrod Wallace, Josh McGuire, Joe Ofahengaue, Travis Waddell, Herman Ese’ese, Tom Opacic

Prediction: Wigan Warriors by 8

Published on February 20 2016 for Rugby AM.

Leeds Rhinos vs North Queensland Cowboys

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Super League champions Leeds Rhinos face off against their Australian counterparts North Queensland Cowboys in the World Club Challenge showpiece tonight at Headingley.

The task facing the Rhinos is unenviable with the club sitting bottom of the Super League along with its squad depleted by injuries as the weeks have gone by and now they must, as they have so often done in the past, rise up to another big encounter and defeat North Queensland Cowboys.

But this game could all be about one man, Johnathan Thurston, who in his own right, stakes a strong claim to be the greatest rugby league player ever after he guided his North Queensland Cowboys to the most dramatic of victories over Brisbane Broncos last season.

The Cowboys entered the final seconds of the game 16-12 down with their title hopes seemingly over only for Michael Morgan to score a try in the corner to level the game, giving Thurston the chance to kick the conversion and win the Premiership. It’s understandable that the half-back took, what must have seemed like an eternity to the Cowboys supporters, to line-up the kick given the magnitude but he struck the post.

Fate struck a cruel blow that day for Brisbane, who played their part in a pulsating encounter, as Thurston kicked the match-winning field goal in golden point extra-time to seal the title win and thus write his name in rugby league folklore.

Brian McDermott will be without as many as seven first-team players for this game. Tom Briscoe, Carl Ablett and Ashton Golding all limped off in their shock 56-12 defeat against Widnes Vikings at the weekend. The trio join Beau Falloon, Danny McGuire, Stevie Ward and Jamie Jones-Buchanan on the sidelines.

Ash Handley, Brad Singleton come into the starting team replacing Briscoe and Ablett with Anthony Mullally making his impact from the bench on his debut in a trio of changes.

That said write Leeds off at your peril as followers of the English code will know the Rhinos have that never-say-die attitude and they will need all of that as they prevail on Sunday night.

Thurston has won almost every honour in the game but one evades him. The World Club Challenge. Will his Cowboys side complete the jigsaw or will Leeds Rhinos step up to the big stage once again?

Leeds Rhinos: Zak Hardaker, Ash Handley, Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Liam Sutcliffe, Jordan Lilley, Keith Galloway, Rob Burrow, Adam Cuthbertson, Brett Delaney, Brett Ferres, Brad Singleton, Mitch Garbutt, Jimmy Keinhorst, Anthony Mullally, Josh Walters.

North Queensland Cowboys: Lachlan Coote, Kyle Feldt, Justin O’Neill, Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein, Michael Morgan, Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Jake Granville, James Tamou, Gavin Cooper, Ethan Lowe, Jason Taumalolo, Rory Kostjasyn, John Asiata, Scott Bolton, Ben Hannant.

Prediction: North Queensland Cowboys by 18

Published on February 21 2016 for Rugby AM.

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