Wigan Warriors will face-off against the South Sydney Rabbitohs or the Brisbane Broncos in next year’s World Club Series.
Shaun Wane’s Warriors are looking to retain their Super League crown for the second season running when they clash with St Helens in the Grand Final at Old Trafford this weekend.
The victor of the final will host the Rabbitohs – who are co-owned by Hollywood superstar Russell Crowe.
Over 83,000 fans packed into Sydney’s ANZ Stadium to see the Rabbitohs clinch their first Australian NRL Premiership title in 43 years last week.
And they did so in impressive fashion, dispatching Canterbury Bulldogs 30-6.
Up until now, the World Series has featured just the Super League and NRL champions, but it is being expanded from next term.
In the new-look format, Australia’s top three teams will travel up to Britain when the next season kicks-off.
The Broncos, who have previously appeared in two World Series, will play the losers of Saturday’s Old Trafford showdown while St George-Illawarra will play Warrington Wolves.
Super League general manager Blake Solly (main picture) is convinced that it will be rip-roaring success.
“I am delighted that we are able to host three clubs of the stature of South Sydney, Brisbane Broncos and St George-Illawarra in the inaugural World Club Series next year,” he enthused.
Sam Burgess – who Crowe convinced to join the Rabbitohs in 2010 from Bradford Bulls – played through the entirety of the final with a broken cheekbone and fractured eye-socket in a gladiator-like performance.
In a rare-moment of vulnerability, the 25-year-old powerhouse was seen openly crying on the pitch with tears of joy after the exhilarating match – his last for the Rabbitohs.
Although he is now returning to England in a cross-code switch to rugby union side Bath, his three brothers still remain down-under and provide a strong English core to the Australian champions.
And Solly is hopeful that the brother’s presence will help draw even bigger crowds.
“With their strong English connections through the Burgess brothers, the Rabbitohs will be a huge draw for the World Club Challenge,” he continued.
“I am sure the chance to face the Rabbitohs will provide added incentive to St Helens and Wigan Warriors in Saturday’s final.
“With Wigan, St Helens and Warrington Wolves confirmed as Super League’s participating clubs, excitement is already building for the tournament.
“Not only will the World Club Series pitch club against club, but Super League against NRL in a fascinating competition between two leagues and two hemispheres.”
NRL head of football Todd Greenberg is looking forward to the world’s best matching-up.
“This tournament will showcase three of the top clubs in the NRL,” he added.
“It is a chance for our teams to go head-to-head with the best in the UK to determine the best Rugby League clubs in the world.”
Main image courtesy of Super League TV via YouTube, with thanks.