Warrington fly flag for Super League against Broncos

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Published: Friday 17th February 2017 by The News Editor

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Warrington have a chance to help mend the reputation of Super League when they kick off a slimmed-down World Club Series against Brisbane Broncos on Saturday night.

Wayne Bennett’s Broncos were the only NRL club willing to join champions Cronulla in a series which was launched amid high expectations two years ago when Russell Crowe cancelled a trip to the Hollywood Oscars in order to support his beloved South Sydney at St Helens.

A 39-0 rout that day demonstrated the gulf that still exists between the NRL and Super League, whose representatives have lost all six matches so far.

Wigan, who host Cronulla in the World Club Challenge on Sunday afternoon, and Warrington were prominent in the move to expand the annual one-off clash into a series and had been willing to play the matches in Australia this year.

Wolves coach Tony Smith, whose side suffered an 18-12 loss to St George Illawarra in 2015, is aware of onus on his side to fly the flag for Super League.

“S ome teams don’t want to be part of it but we certainly do,” Smith said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to shine for Super League if we can. A couple of years ago we were just a little short against St George.

“I think it’s good for the English public because in years gone by, the only chance of your club playing against Australia was on tours when the Kangaroos came over.

“It’s about young kids remembering in 10 or 15 years’ time when Warrington played the Brisbane Broncos. I have people tell me about the times Warrington played Australia and New Zealand when they toured, it becomes etched in your memory and I think it will for this generation too.”

Brisbane, who are one of three clubs to boast three World Club Challenge titles, are aiming for a hat-trick of wins in the World Club Series after getting the better of Wigan in each of the last two years.

Bennett has left behind new signings Benji Marshall and Korbin Sims, younger brother of Warrington forward Ashton, but a star-studded line-up includes internationals Matt Gillett, Darius Boyd, Josh McGuire, Sam Thaiday, Alex Glenn and Jordan Kahu, as well as exciting half-back pair Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford.

The Broncos are still in pre-season but Gillett insists they are taking the match seriously.

“We want to keep it simple,” he said. “All we can do is work on little things like competing all the time. Win or lose, we need to come off the field knowing we did a good job.

“We were lucky enough when we got in we got to watch a bit of them play. They are a big side and a physical side, but if we can contain their forward pack and aggression that will help us get the win.

“It is difficult conditions over here so we are going to have to work hard.”

Warrington will give a debut to former Widnes stand-off Kevin Brown which is likely to see Kurt Gidley switch to full-back in the continued absence of Stefan Ratchford and Matty Russell revert to the wing outside Rhys Evans, who will take the place of injured centre Toby King.

The Wolves, who began their domestic campaign with a 20-12 defeat by Catalans Dragons, have veteran forward Ben Westwood back for his first game since the Challenge Cup final at Wembley last August after recovering from pectoral and shoulder surgery.

Brown, who was recalled to the England side by Bennett in the autumn, will have the chance to impress the national coach in World Cup year and he will not be the only one, according to Smith.

“There are a number of players who will be keen to put their best foot forward, not least Joe Westerman,” Smith said.

“He’s probably not been talked about in that way for a while but he was by far our strongest player last weekend and I’m sure he’d like to put on a strong display against the current England coach.”

Published: Friday 17th February 2017 by The News Editor

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