The Dacia World Club Series could be played in Australia from 2018 – along with the opening game of the Super League season.
The series has been cut to just two matches this year after Brisbane were the only club to accept an invitation to join NRL champions Cronulla and the Australian duo will play Warrington and Wigan respectively this weekend.
Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan told a news conference at Orrell that his club were close to playing the 2017 World Club Challenge - the centre-piece of the series - in Australia and had also raised the possibility of kicking off the Super League campaign against Warrington Down Under.
“I think it would be great for Super League and for rugby league generally to play the series in Australia,” Lenagan said.
“We proved it with Wigan against the Roosters in Sydney three years ago by getting 35,000 people there that there is an appetite and the more we can open eyes, to the Australians in particular, to the international club arrangement, the better. If that means we go to them, then we go to them.
“We are, as always, in discussions 12 months in advance, about what happens in February 2018. We came very close indeed to playing this game in Australia this year.”
Warrington coach Tony Smith, who has taken his club to Sydney for pre-season training camps in the past, had given his backing to playing this year’s series Down Under.
“We were quite happy to do a training camp there leading into this game and also play a Super League game over there,” Smith said. “I think it would have been great exposure.
“We were certainly up for it. That is the ultimate test. We’d like to go there as Super League champions and play for the title but we’d do it any way. I think there’s scope for it if it was put on in the right places, the rugby league cities.”
Warrington will be aiming to break Super League’s duck in the series when they host Wayne Bennett’s Brisbane on Saturday night after NRL clubs posted 3-0 whitewashes in each of the first two years.
We have to win to earn the right to play more games, the fact we’ve lost six in a row is our fault, not the NRL’s faultIan Lenagan
Lenagan, one of the men behind the move to expand the World Club Challenge, says he does not blame the NRL clubs for their lack of enthusiasm, arguing that it is up to the Super League clubs to make the series more attractive by posting victories.
“I think we have to win to earn the right to play more games,” Lenagan said. “The fact we’ve lost six in a row is our fault, not the NRL’s fault.
“What’s the point in expanding something that’s not been successful?
“In that respect, I’m pleased it’s gone back to two.
“I think the pull of the big teams in Australia is very strong but we’ve got to win first and that’s Wigan’s objective for Sunday. We take on a mantle that is very important for Super League.
“We’re feeling pretty good about it. We’re well prepared and for once we don’t have many injuries. Having people like Tony Clubb and Joel Tomkins back gives us some size against the Cronulla pack.”
There has been much speculation about playing the World Club Challenge on neutral territory and Lenagan says he would support taking it to the United States, which will host the 2025 Rugby League World Cup.
“I’m much happier with the idea of going to America than I am with the idea of playing in Dubai or Qatar,” Lenagan said.
“I don’t think personally there is a future in that but I do think there is a great future in club football taking place in America. For me America is the land of opportunity for rugby.”