English and Australian champions face off in the 2024 World Club Challenge


Super League winners Wigan Warriors host the NRL champions Penrith Panthers on Saturday night, as two worlds collide in the 2024 World Club Challenge.

The History

A fixture that is steeped in history will once again be contested in England, after last year’s edition went down under. 2020 was the last time an Australian side travelled to the UK for a game.

The first competitive outing of this competition was held back in 1989, and just two years later it was Wigan and Penrith that met at Anfield stadium in the second edition. That particular game was won by Wigan, who would go on to win two more in the following 33 years. Penrith have featured in another two games since then, but are yet to come away with a victory.

This year has a particularly interesting storyline, as each country has 13 competitive titles. Therefore, Saturday’s winner will propel one country into the lead again.

Wigan Warriors celebrate winning the 2017 World Club Challenge

The Clubs

There’s no shortage of motivation for either side. Penrith’s current squad are widely considered as one of the greatest ever rugby league sides, having won a hattrick of premierships over the past three years, the first ever club to do that in the NRL era.

The Western Sydney side are looking to right some wrongs, they were defeated in their own back yard by St Helens last year, and are yet to put their name on this trophy. After such a dominant run in Australia the Panthers simply need to win this title.

Wigan dethroned their rivals St Helens last year, and will be desperate to cement themselves as the best side in English rugby by following in the footsteps of their neighbours.

The 2023 World Club Challenge trophy

The Game

Early advantages lie with the Warriors. The players are more adjusted to the climate, and are also up to speed with match fitness. Penrith are yet to play a competitive game in 2024, whereas Wigan played their opening Super League game last weekend.

Penrith have also had to travel 17,000 Kilometres, and are without their star man Jarome Luai. Hosts Wigan will have a capacity crowd of around 24,000 cheering them on, but will miss a couple of key men, with new signings Luke Thompson and Sam Walters set to miss out on the clash.

Wigan will look towards their flash players for creativity, Bevan French and Jai Field. Although they will rely on the steady hands of Harry Smith to control the tempo of the game. Smith’s opposite number Nathan Cleary is touted as the best player in the world, so the academy product is up for a very tough night.

Nathan Cleary posing with the 2023 NRL trophy

The Coaches

Wigan’s head coach Matt Peet has heaped praise on Penrith, and said he hopes to come up against the best of them:

“I think both teams want to come up against the best of each other.

“I want to put on record what Penrith have done committing to this competition over the past two seasons, it is testament to them.

“The English teams crave this fixture, but it’s big for them to commit to coming over here so I think it’s obvious for what their organisation stands for.”

The World Club Challenge has largely been played every year, but each time it’s up in doubt as both clubs have to agree when and where it will take place, with it being a huge commitment for one.

Like Peet, Penrith’s boss Ivan Cleary was excited for the fixture, saying he’s glad that it’s back where it belongs:

“We’re really stoked to be here and to be part of this occasion. You don’t get invited to this fixture you have to earn it, and it’s so hard to win a Championship. Both of us have earned this right.

“The World Club Challenge went quiet for a few years due to Covid. I think it’s back in its rightful place and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Liam Farrell, Matt Peet, Ivan Cleary and Isaah Yeo at the World Club Challenge Press Conference
Photo Credit – Adam Clarke

The Squads

Peet has made just the one change to his 21-man squad that kicked off the Super League campaign last weekend, with Tiaki Chan replacing Luke Thompson.

The only noticeable absentee from Penrith’s 21-man squad is of course Jarome Luai, with youngster Jack Cole stepping into the number six shirt.




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