‘Forget Tom Brady, the real Super Bowl takes place this weekend’

Tom Brady and his New England Patriots toasted a sixth Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night, but Dean Bell insists the real Super Bowl takes place at the DW Stadium this Sunday. 

With an equal amount of grunt and ounces more flair on show, the World Club Challenge is always one of the sporting highlights of the year.

And with the Wigan Warriors set to tackle the intimidating Sydney Roosters on Sunday night, the 27th final is likely to live up to the billing.

Victory for Wigan would stretch their record of overall titles to six, two more than Super League foes Leeds Rhinos, but the Roosters are three-time champions themselves and have not lost a final yet.

And Bell is expecting a battle for the ages. The New Zealander knows what it feels like to be on the winning side in club rugby’s biggest game having tasted success with the Warriors in 1987, while he has made a combined 295 appearances for both clubs.

“It’s a little bit like the Super Bowl, they’re obviously the two best sides in the world,” he said.

“Now it’s the opportunity to say you’re the best rugby league club in the world.

“It’s been shared about a little bit too – the NRL think they’re the best league and while they’ve got a lot more depth, certainly the top teams in the Super League would be very competitive against the NRL sides.

“Wigan will have to play at their very best – I don’t know what sort of team the Roosters will put out – but if they put their best team out, they’re a force to be reckoned with.

“Wigan has an expectation that those kinds of trophies are there for them to win. Sometimes you get other clubs – they’ll be hopeful for a win – Wigan will expect to win. That’s the difference.”

Despite that embedded confidence, victory on Sunday would be very extra special for Wigan. It is only four months on from their Grand Final victory over Warrington Wolves, yet the landscape already looks very different.

Head coach Shaun Wane left to join Scotland’s rugby union national set-up with a winners’ medal in his pocket, while key players Sam Tomkins, John Bateman and Ryan Sutton have all since moved on to pastures new.

Shaun Edwards is lined up to become head coach following the Rugby Union World Cup in the autumn, leaving Adrian Lam in interim charge, while talented full-back Zak Hardaker has brought unwanted attention after returning from a 14-month drugs ban.

Yet despite that, the Warriors remain one of the most electric teams to watch and Bell believes Hardaker could be the difference.

“The kid’s got a lot of talent. He caught my eye as soon as he came onto the scene at Leeds and he is box office to watch,” the 56-year-old added.

“It’s now just a matter of him settling in at Wigan and playing as well as we know he can play.

“He’s got to sort his off-the-field stuff out but there’s no doubting his quality as a player.

“Obviously, he’s made some mistakes, bad judgement calls – I just hope for his sake he gets over it because if he puts his mind to it he’d be up there with one of the best full-backs in the world.”

If he sparkles, then the DW Stadium will roar and Bell knows that atmosphere will unsettle the Roosters – just as the Manly Sea Eagles could not keep their composure in 1987.

“I’ve never seen an atmosphere like it,” Bell said.

“I was injured that day and normally as a player you don’t want to talk about games you weren’t involved in but that was just an amazing night.”

Wigan Warriors take on the Sydney Roosters in 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 Charlie Bennett

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