Wigan legend Ellery Hanley has his money on his old side as they face Sydney Roosters at the DW Stadium on Sunday.
The three-time Man of Steel believes the Australians’ lack of game time so far this season will play a major role in the outcome of the match.
Wigan have won the World Club Challenge a record four times and Hanley, having played in the competition himself, believes the benefit of a home advantage will be worth its weight in gold.
“I put my money on Wigan simply because they’ve played more games than the Roosters. I’m not taking anything away from the Roosters, but you’ve got to put minutes on the pitch to be successful,” said Hanley.
“Our game is so physical, it’s brutal. It’s got athletic, combative players who play with everything they’ve got. They don’t leave anything behind in the changing rooms. They’re honest, their integrity is good and some of these players have fantastic skill.
“Home advantage is crucial. You’ll find that it makes a huge difference to the team that travel overseas in terms of getting your timing right, or in defence.
“The good thing about Wigan is that they have a background of being a defence-orientated side and that will help them massively, as will the crowd behind them.
“Wigan have built their success on defending – even in my period of time, we built all our wins on defence and I don’t expect anything else from this World Club Challenge.”
The competition is something that Hanley holds in high regard and is confident that the prestige of the event will translate into a strong performance from Wigan – currently the best team in the world in his view.
Hanley also considers the rivalry shared by the two sporting nations to be the greatest of all but insists the past will play no part in the game on Sunday.
“I don’t think there’s any bigger rivalry than between England and Australia as far as Rugby League’s concerned,” added Hanley.
“The history won’t come into the equation at all. I never worried about statistics.
“I just focused on playing consistently well for 80 minutes and I think Wigan will do the same thing. As far as stats are concerned, who’s won more won’t make any difference at all.
“I think you have to take each World Club Challenge on its own merit – even when I played against Manly, it was one of the biggest games I’ve played in my career.
“That particular game was special – firstly because there were no tries, and I like a defensive hard game. The game can still be spectacular and showcase a lot of skills – and people still talk about that game today.
“It’s one of the biggest games in any player’s career. There will be millions watching this game and enormous pressure on everything that they do.”
Wigan Warriors take on the Sydney Roosters in the Betfred World Club Challenge as the world’s two best rugby league sides go head-to-head at the DW Stadium on Sunday February 17th, kick-off 7pm. Secure your seat today by calling the DW Stadium ticket office on 01942 311111 or visiting https://wiganwarriors.com/tickets
By Tom Dean