WARRIORS chairman Ian Lenagan says the profile of the World Club Series ahead of Wigan’s clash with Brisbane in February.
The sides clash at the DW Stadium for the second time in two years, after each qualified by reaching their respective Grand Finals last term, and upwards of 2,000 tickets have already been sold for the game on Saturday, February 20, which is expected to sell out.
This is now a high profile, important international club competition which will get bigger and bigger, just as European Champions League games have become in footballIan Lenagan
With Leeds taking on North Queensland in the World Club Challenge the following night, Lenagan has dismissed suggestion that Wigan’s game and St Helens’ meeting with Sydney Roosters on Friday February 19 are ‘friendlies’ and says the World Club Series could become rugby league’s answer to football’s Champions League.
“The World Club Series has now become a very serious event which all the leading Australian clubs want to qualify for and compete in,” he said.
“There will no longer be any suggestion of friendly games or warm-up matches– this is now a high profile, important international club competition which will get bigger and bigger, just as European Champions League games have become in football.”
Critics pointed out the lack of a qualification structure for NRL for the inaugural series last year, which has been ironed out for 2016 with the competition’s top three sides from 2015 jetting over to the UK. Lengan explained: “The top three NRL clubs from 2015 have qualified to compete with their equivalents in Super League and sell-outs will be the order of the day.
“Wigan were devastated to lose to Brisbane last year and will be determined to get the victory in 2016.”
Wigan have a strong rivalry with Brisbane despite the thousands of miles between them, and have fought famous contests such as in the 1992 World Sevens and the unforgettable night in 1994, when Wigan won the World Club Challenge on Australian soil.
“Of even greater attraction,games between Wigan and Brisbane have always been very special occasions in front of massive crowds,” said Lenagan.
“The 1994 Wigan victory in Brisbane was a famous night etched into the history of the Wigan club and last year’s game was another classic encounter which kept everyone on the edge of their seats until the very last kick of the game.”
Lenagan has also called on fans to put their club loyalties aside for the other two World Club Series games, in the hope Super League clubs can tip the scales from last year’s 3-0 whitewash in favour of NRL clubs.
“This is a unique occasion for the rugby league community to get behind all three English sides with loud and enthusiastic support and I will be leading the Wigan Board of Directors and the Wigan fans in supporting not just Wigan, but Leeds and St Helens to win the World Club Series for England,” he said.
“It’s about time England beat the Australians and we will never have a better chance with Wigan, St Helens and Leeds representing England in front of sell-out crowds following the example of the current England vs New Zealand Series.”
Wigan face Brisbane at the DW Stadium on Saturday 20 February, 8pm kick-off. Tickets are available now from £22 for adults and £15 for concessions.