Rabbitohs back World Club Series

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Published: Monday 23rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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Russell Crowe’s newly-crowned champions South Sydney have thrown their weight behind the new World Club Series.

The annual World Club Challenge was expanded this year into a six-team competition in which all three matches went the way of the NRL clubs against their Super League counterparts.

It was seen as a trial but Greg Inglis, who led the Rabbitohs to their 39-0 rout of Super League champions St Helens in the climax to the series at Langtree Park on Sunday night, believes the competition should be here to stay.

“I loved it,” Inglis said. “The whole of England has jumped behind it and the world has too. The Aussie teams come over and really enjoy it. Every single game was a sell-out so I think it should continue.”

The ease with which Saints were demolished by a superbly-drilled South Sydney outfit was in sharp contrast to the battling performances of Warrington and Wigan, who pushed St George Illawarra and Brisbane Broncos all the way in the other games, and the Rabbitohs’ former Wigan coach Michael Maguire is convinced Super League’s top teams can hold their own with the NRL clubs.

“I think consistency of where every team is at is the key,” Maguire said. “Across the whole of the NRL the games are consistently at high levels.

“You see a fair few blow-out scores over here which probably changes the intensity of games and the requirements of turning up each week.

“But I think the top-end teams can definitely mix it in our competition.”

Souths’ victory means the NRL clubs have won six of the last seven World Club Challenge titles and f ormer England captain Jamie Peacock believes the disparity in the salary cap of each competition will help maintain the gulf.

“We spend nearly £2million and they spend close to £4m and in any walk of life talent goes where the money is,” Peacock told the BBC’s Super League Show.

“That’s one thing we have to take into consideration.”

St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham also has concerns over the size of the salary cap in Super League but refused to use it as an excuse for his side’s seven-try humiliation.

“It is difficult but I’m not going to whinge about it,” Cunningham said. “I can’t blame the salary cap for the performance.

“I’m confident in my team’s ability and I know they’re a lot better than they showed in that match.

“Friday’s game was a great spectacle and Saturday’s game was a great spectacle. The only thing I worry about the salary cap is the NRL coming to cherry pick all our great players. ”

The series is almost certain to take place again in the UK next year after a total of 51,902 fans attended the three games over the weekend but its long-term future will be determined following a tournament review.

Crowe, Souths’ co-owner who snubbed the Oscars in order to cheer his beloved Bunnies to victory in St Helens, wants to see the competition expanded still further and held at the end of each season, with Las Vegas as a potential neutral venue.

Super League general manager Blake Solly said: “The series fired the imagination of existing rugby league supporters and new fans alike, all of whom watched the best players in the world in massive numbers.

“The feedback we have had from the players involved, both from Super League and the NRL, has been universally positive, and I know from the many comments from players not fortunate enough to be involved that there is a massive appetite to be part of the World Club Series next year.”

Brisbane have already indicated their desire to host Super League opposition and the NRL is to examine the feasibility of taking the tournament Down Under.

Andrew Hill, the NRL’s development manager, said: “The World Club Series is one of the strategies for growth in place at the NRL and Super League and we are looking forward to building on what has been an outstanding tournament.”

Maguire says his side’s emphatic victory has set his team up perfectly for the start of their NRL title defence and also believes the series can produce spin-offs away from the playing field.

“Being a part of it has been great,” Maguire said. “I think for us as a club globally it opens up so many doors, particularly for our sponsors.

“It opens us up to the world. Financially, for clubs it’s going to be a big interest.”

Published: Monday 23rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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