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Hopes to have the World Club Challenge (WCC) be held in Australia next year were dashed this week, with the NRL confirming the game will be held in the UK. While a push to play the fixture on Australian shores had gained momentum earlier in the season, NRL officials have preferred to stick to the tried and true formula of playing the clash in the cooler climate of Britain.
The WCC is generally played in early February and is contested between the winners of the NRL and ESL premierships. The annual fixture has not been played in Australia since 1993, when Brisbane defeated Wigan 22-8 at ANZ Stadium.
NRL Operating Officer Graham Annesley ruled out the proposed move to Australia telling AAP that a major issue was ?? (The) weather in Sydney in early February?. This is undoubtedly a reference to Bradford?s concerns that playing a game of Rugby League in the height of the Australian summer will place undue strain on their players. Australian teams however have long argued that their UK counterparts gain advantage from playing the WCC in the freezing conditions of a UK winter.
Annesley also highlighted the need to draw a big crowd to the fixture to pay for what is an expensive game to organise. Britain has always drawn healthy crowds for WCC fixtures, most recently attracting 37,028 spectators to the clash between Leeds and Canterbury at Elland Road. Next years game looks set to be played at the 24,500 capacity Galpharm Stadium, the host of WCC clashes in 2002 and 2004.
The Wests Tigers have decided to commence training early to properly prepare for the clash. The NRL premiers will start regular training on November 13, giving themselves the best possible opportunity to defeat their British rivals. Tim Sheens will also take the extraordinary step of visiting England prior to the event to inspect facilities and ground conditions.
The game has been tentatively pencilled in for the 3rd of February.