Former Wigan Warriors duo to square off in NRL opening round

Aaron Bower
Kai Pearce-Paul Wigan Warriors Alamy

Two of Wigan Warriors’ Super League-winning squad from last season will face off against one another in the opening round of the new NRL season.

Kai Pearce-Paul and Morgan Smithies were both integral parts of Matt Peet’s squad last season as they finished top of the competition before going on to win the Grand Final at Old Trafford. They subsequently both departed for Australia, with Pearce-Paul heading for Newcastle and Smithies signing for Canberra.

And both men have impressed sufficiently in pre-season to be given an opportunity to feature in the opening round of the season this weekend – coincidentally against one another, too.

Smithies will start at 13 for Canberra against the Knights, having impressed since making the move to Australia. Pearce-Paul will come on from the bench, but has also caught the eye during the winter and has made a seamless start to life in the NRL.

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Smithies’ inclusion is perhaps less of a surprise, particularly given fellow England international Elliott Whitehead and regular starter Corey Horsbrugh is injured. But Pearce-Paul getting the nod to feature in the first 17 of the new season after signing from Wigan perhaps is more of a shock.

Pearce-Paul is in a Newcastle side with several other former Super League players; he will be on the interchange bench alongside ex-Huddersfield man Jack Cogger, while former Man of Steel, Jackson Hastings, starts in the halves.

The other Super League player to join the Knights in the off-season, Will Pryce, has been named among the five reserves and given the number 20 shirt.

The one other England international that will feature in the NRL this weekend is centre Herbie Farnworth, who will make his debut for the Dolphins after being selected in the side that will square off against North Queensland Cowboys on Sunday in the final match of the round.

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