Super League Winners St Helens are all set for the highly anticipated return of World Club Challenge, facing NRL Champions Penrith Panthers down under in Sydney.

Saints travelled to Australia at the start of the month, where they have been training and preparing for the clash.

Despite winning four titles on the bounce and being widely regarded as one of the best sides to grace Super League, Saints are the underdogs. The NRL has boasted a better standard of Rugby for quite some time now.

Australian rugby league blogger Matt Pritchard says St Helens will be up against it to take the international bragging rights, with the Panthers having home advantage: “It’s a huge task given only the 1994 Wigan side has been successful at winning the World Club Challenge on Australian soil. They will need to play for a full eighty minutes and hold their nerve against one of the best defensive units in the NRL, with the heat factor going against the Saints as well.”

Pritchard produces the “Nothing but Rugby League” website, pointing out Penrith will be well rested and ready to go, with their star half-back pairing Nathan Clearly and Jarome Luai both named in the squad: “In their opening trial, Penrith rested the majority of their NRL players in preparation to play their full strength squad against St Helens.”

Nathan Cleary leads the Panthers out ahead of their 2022 Grand Final victory

“They are a well-balanced team with Nathan Cleary the superstar of the side. The forward pack is very strong with Isaah Yeo, Liam Martin and James Fisher-Harris leading from the front. Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton, Izack Tago and Jarome Luai all have international experience, and are dangerous in attack.”

With excitement amongst both sets of supporters building down under, Pritchard says the interest for neutrals may be on the progression of the game in Super League: “If you’re a Panthers fan, the prospect of picking up another piece of silverware is exciting. If not, the interest will be on how the game in the UK has progressed, with St Helens winning four consecutive titles.”

While they have fallen short before in winning the WCC, Pritchard predicts the winning mentality of the Panthers will carry them over the line against Paul Wellens’ side:

“I think Penrith’s desire to win their first ever World Club Challenge will see them take out the title. Unlike the 1991 and 2004 Challenges where they might not have taken the game as serious, the current team has this desire for success, and their class may be a little too strong for Saints.