World Club Challenge 2024 preview

World Club Challenge 2024 preview

This weekend sees Wigan Warriors and Penrith Panthers go head to head at the DW Stadium to determine who the best club side in the world is. Here’s our in-depth guide about what to look forward to…

How they got here

The Warriors stormed home in 2023, winning their final 10 games of the year to pick up the League Leaders Shield and the Super League trophy with a 10-2 victory over Catalans Dragons in the Grand Final. In a tight first half in Manchester, Wigan went in at the break level at 2-2, but they dominated the second 40 minutes, and Liam Marshall’s try ultimately proved to be the difference.

The Panthers made it three straight NRL Premierships, and picked up a second consecutive Minor Premiership as well. On Grand Final night, they were on the brink in Sydney, as Brisbane Broncos led them 24-8 after 56 minutes. Penrith fought back though to record the largest ever comeback in a Premiership decider, as they eventually triumphed 26-24.

WCC History

Wigan are the second-most successful team in the history of the World Club Challenge with four victories, and a win on Saturday will draw them level with Sydney Roosters as the equal-best team in the competition’s history.

As for Penrith, they’ve never won a WCC, and were beaten 13-12 in 2023 by Wigan’s arch-rivals St Helens. They’ve met Wigan in this competition before, back in 1991, and lost 21-4 in front of a crowd of more than 20,000 at Anfield.

Wigan Warriors team news

Wigan have made just one change to their 21-man-squad from their round one victory over Castleford in Super League last weekend. New signing Luke Thompson has been ruled out with concussion, and another new arrival, Tiaki Chan, has taken his place in the squad.

The other big news for the Warriors is the inclusion of Harry Smith, who escaped a ban for a dangerous tackle in the same match, so he’ll start at halfback for the home team.

Penrith Panthers team news

The big news for the Panthers is the absence of five-eighth, Jarome Luai, who has been a fixture in the side during their reign of dominance in the NRL for the past three years. His place at number 6 will be taken by Jack Cole, a 20-year-old with just one first grade game to his name, back in 2022. With Luai departing at the end of the year though, it’s a great chance for Cole to put himself in the frame for a regular starting spot for 2024 and beyond.

The rest of the squad is pretty much as expected, with star names, Nathan Cleary, Dylan Edwards and James Fisher-Harris all part of the starting XIII.

Our prediction – Wigan Warriors 14-12 Penrith Panthers

This game’s too close to call in my opinion, but I’m letting my heart rule my head and going with Wigan to edge it.

On paper, the Panthers are the stronger of the two sides, but given that Wigan have already played a Super League fixture and this will be the Panthers’ first competitive game of the year, the Warriors will have the edge when it comes to match sharpness. Add in the likely wet and windy conditions in the north west on Saturday night, and Wigan have plenty of small advantages going in their favour.

Whatever happens though, this should be an absolute belter of a game, and an extremely tight one.

Darren Notley

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