The last five World Club Challenges to be held on English soil

Ben Olawumi
DW Stadium, Mitch Garbutt red card, Tom and George Burgess, Luke Thompson

St Helens, Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors are the last three English clubs to host a World Club Challenge - Alamy

With the announcement of the 2024 World Club Challenge now made, it’s been confirmed that the event will return to English soil for the first time in four years.

Last night, it was revealed that Wigan Warriors would be hosting Penrith Panthers at the DW Stadium on Saturday, February 24 (8pm KO) in a game broadcast live by Sky Sports.

The Super League champions have been squaring off against the NRL’s kings since 1976, but in recent times, the occasions have been few and far between, largely due to the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

When St Helens beat Penrith at the start of this year, it came Down Under at the Panthers’ BlueBet Stadium, the first British club to win a World Club Challenge held in Australia in the Super League era.

Below, we’ve taken a look at the most recent five World Club Challenges to take place in this country, in chronological order from the most recent in 2020. The venue and attendance can also be seen.

The last five World Club Challenges to be held on English soil

February 22, 2020 – Sydney Roosters 20-12 St Helens – Totally Wicked Stadium (16,108)

Sydney Roosters, St Helens, World Club Challenge 2020
Sydney Roosters celebrated their victory against St Helens in the 2020 World Club Challenge – Alamy

With St Helens’ period of dominance in the British game beginning with a 2019 Grand Final victory against Salford Red Devils, they earned the right to host NRL champions Sydney Roosters.

Kristian Woolf had just assumed the hotseat following the departure of Justin Holbrook, but couldn’t stop the rot of Aussie victories in World Club Challenges as the Roosters extended it out to three in a row.

A brace from Joseph Manu along with tries from Daniel Tupou and Luke Keary got the job done for the visitors, with Luke Thompson & Alex Walmsley on the scoresheet for the Saints. The Roosters haven’t won the NRL premiership since, but that victory means they’re the club with the most World Club Challenge wins outright (5), one ahead of Wigan.

February 17, 2019 – Sydney Roosters 20-8 Wigan Warriors – DW Stadium (21,331)

Brett Morris, Sydney Roosters, Wigan Warriors, World Club Challenge 2019
Brett Morris scores one of three tries for Sydney Roosters against Wigan Warriors in the 2019 World Club Challenge – Alamy

12 months beforehand, Trent Robinson’s Roosters had beaten Wigan themselves to go level in terms of outright World Club Challenge wins, doing so at the DW Stadium.

Centre Brett Morris scored a hat-trick on debut for the visitors, with Sio Siua Taukeiaho – who has recently departed Catalans Dragons – tagging on a penalty.

Tom Davies and Liam Marshall – who crossed for the only try of the game against Catalans in October’s Grand Final win at Old Trafford for the Warriors – both scored four-pointers of their own, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Aussies partying in Wigan’s backyard. The game’s attendance hadn’t been bettered since 2011 in terms of a World Club Challenge held in England.

February 19, 2017 – Wigan Warriors 22-6 Cronulla Sharks – DW Stadium (21,011)

Joe Burgess, Wigan Warriors, Cronulla Sharks, World Club Challenge 2017
Joe Burgess scores one of three tries for Wigan Warriors against Cronulla Sharks in the 2017 World Club Challenge – Alamy

The last time that Wigan were involved in a World Club Challenge prior to that was two years earlier, when they triumphed in the event for a then-record fourth time, beating Cronulla Sharks in front of just over 21,000 at the DW.

Academy product Joe Burgess had spent the year prior plying his trade in Australia, but returned for the perfect homecoming with a hat-trick of tries as the Cherry and Whites put on a sterling defensive display to restrict their opponents to just the one try, coming from Jesse Ramien midway through the second half. Oliver Gildart also crossed for a Warriors try.

It was the first time that the Super League champions had beaten the NRL kings since 2012. Since this Wigan win in 2017, the only English victory in a World Club game came earlier this year with that St Helens success Down Under against Penrith.

February 21, 2016 – North Queensland Cowboys 38-4 Leeds Rhinos – Headingley (19,778)

Mitch Garbutt, Leeds Rhinos, North Queensland Cowboys, James Tamou, World Club Challenge 2016
Leeds Rhinos’ Mitch Garbutt (second right) punches North Queensland Cowboys’ James Tamou in the 2016 World Club Challenge – Alamy

Leeds have been involved in a World Club game more recently than this, in 2018, when they lost out to Melbourne Storm in the Southern Hemisphere. In a hugely disappointing parallel, they too lost that clash by the same scoreline as this, 38-4.

In 2016, as they welcomed the Cowboys for the showpiece, a 3-0 victory for the NRL over Super League in the World Club Series was sealed. Sydney Roosters had already beaten St Helens, and Brisbane Broncos had got the better of Wigan. At Headingley, the scores were level at 4-4 come the break with Rob Burrow hitting back for the Rhinos after Michael Morgan’s opening try.

Future Hull KR ace Kane Linnett would restore North Queensland’s lead early on in the second half however, with five further tries – including one from captain Johnathan Thurston – seeing the Cowboys named ‘the best club side in the world’ for the first – and to date only – time. Leeds’ Mitch Garbutt was sent off late on for punching James Tamou.

February 22, 2015 – South Sydney Rabbitohs 39-0 St Helens – Totally Wicked Stadium (17,980)

South Sydney Rabbitohs, St Helens, World Club Challenge 2015
South Sydney Rabbitohs lift the World Club Challenge trophy in 2015 after a record-breaking win over St Helens – Alamy

Only twice to date has a side been ‘nilled’ in a World Club Challenge. Both were St Helens, with the first in 2003 at Bolton Wanderers’ Reebok Stadium – now Toughsheet Community Stadium – against Sydney Roosters, and the second came in this game against South Sydney Rabbitohs at Langtree Park, now known as the Totally Wicked Stadium, in 2015.

To this day, the 39-0 thumping is still a record win in a World Club Challenge, with Glenn Stewart opening the scoring within two minutes against Keiron Cunningham’s side. The Saints legend had just taken charge.

Dylan Walker, Greg Inglis and Joel Reddy also crossed for tries before the interval, while Luke Keary and Chris McQueen got their names on the scoresheet in the second 40 alongside Reddy, who got his second of the evening. Adam Reynolds dropped a one-pointer late on to add insult to injury.

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