We take a look at how six key personnel match up, ahead of the opening World Club Series game on Friday night…
The two scrum-halves are very different players, but their match-up in the halfback area should be interesting. Myler seems to drift anonymously through games at times, but comes alive when running support lines in a break. He can also run well in support of Daryl Clark‘s darts from dummy half, giving the Wolves additional penetration and speed in the heart of the opponents’ defence.
Marshall has a step and an ability to find a gap, and is clearly enjoying life back in rugby league after his unfortunate sojourn in the other code. He is also recognised as a world-class performer who has won World Cups and Four Nations. His personal honours list dwarfs Myler’s, and, on paper, this match-up probably looks like a one-sided, foregone conclusion.
Big games can bring the best out of players, though, and if Myler shines against Marshall, then this game might be see in retrospect as the monent when Myler finally arrived on the world stage as a player. Don’t bet against Benji taking imperious control of the game if things go well for the Dragons up front, however.
This is a clash of two players who have enjoyed very different career trajectories. While Kevin Penny is returning to the full-time ranks and making a go of things in Super League after battles against injury, Jason Nightingale is an established international winger with a great pedigree. The Kiwi star has played 22 test matches for New Zealand, and was a World Club Challenge winner with the Dragons when they beat Wigan at the DW Stadium in 2011. He has been there and seen it all when it comes to wing play at the highest level.
One thing Penny does have is pace, however, and if he is feeling confident, he might well try and take Nightingale on the outside at some point. That should make for an interesting foot race. After bouncing around from club to club in recent seasons, Penny will want to make sure that this is the season when he finally establishes himself as a good Super League player. This could be the game for him to send a real message to the rugby league world, but he will find it tough up against the experienced Kiwi.
The contest at dummy half could be key to the game. Clark is one of the hottest properties in British rugby league – a pacy, clever dummy half who can gain huge yards and momentum for his team with his scoots from the base of the ruck. In what is likely to be a tight game, his breaks could be the difference between winning and losing. As the Four Nations showed, however, Clark is still raw and looked quieter in an England shirt than he did for Castleford in Super League last season. He still showed glimpses of his class, but couldn’t find the in-game consistency a world-class hooker needs at the highest level.
Rein is also a relative youngster, at 24 years of age, but is already a solid NRL performer. A nuggety, tough hooker, who has pace of his own and defends well, he might give Clark a bit of a lesson if given the chance. He earned his first representative honours last season, with a call-up the New South Wales country squad. He played 22 first-grade games for the Dragons last season, and has previously captained the Young Dragons, 2010. That kind of pedigree makes a him a more than solid performer, and his clash with Clark could be key to the result of the game.