St Helens keen to face Australian NRL champions Penrith Panthers in renewed World Club Challenge
Saints played in the last World Club Challenge in 2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Record-breaking Super League champions St Helens are keen to restore the World Club Challenge to the calendar in 2023 by taking on NRL counterparts Penrith Panthers, providing both clubs can agree on a time and date.
Penrith retained their crown with an impressive 28-12 win over Parramatta in front of a capacity 82,415 crowd at Accor Stadium on Sunday to put themselves in the frame to play Saints, who won a record fourth successive Grand Final at Old Trafford last month.
St Helens have appeared in seven World Club Challenges and would love to make it eight in February.
“We are keen of course,” said chairman Eamonn McManus.
Saints played in the last World Club Challenge in 2020, when they lost to Sydney Roosters, but the coronavirus pandemic put paid to their chances of tackling Melbourne in 2021 and the Panthers earlier this year.
The last time they won the prestigious trophy was way back in 2007 when they defeated Brisbane Broncos 18-14 at Bolton.
Chief executive Mike Rush revealed Super League officials have already been in contact with their NRL counterparts but admits several challenges need to be overcome for the game to take place.
“As always, we would be more than happy to play in the WCC,” Rush said. “The ball is always in the court of the NRL and the Australian club sides.
“We can accommodate the game for sure and Super League has been in contact with the NRL.
“It would, of course, have to fit in with the start of both seasons and an issue could be the costs of staging the game given the price of flights at present.”
It is widely accepted that the UK in February is the best place and time for the event, given Super League’s early season start compared to the NRL, and Rush believes a shorter pre-season caused by the World Cup could add to the difficulties.
Penrith could have as many as 19 players involved in the World Cup which starts on October 15 and runs to November 19.
The Panthers cemented their place among the modern great teams with a dominant display against an outclassed Eels, highlighted by two tries from winger Brian To’o, who is likely to be in the Samoa team to play England at Newcastle on Saturday week.
Penrith, who just lost four games all year, raced into a 10-0 lead inside 17 minutes and were 28-0 up before Parramatta responded with two late consolation tries.