The cream of the crop from Australia’s NRL have arrived in the UK as considerable favourites to repeat last year’s 3-0 whitewash of Super League sides in the World Club Series.
NRL champions North Queensland Cowboys (-14, 10/11) face Super League winners Leeds Rhinos on Sunday for the World Club Challenge, and they are joined on these shores by beaten Grand Finalists Brisbane Broncos (-6, 10/11) and minor premiers Sydney Roosters (-10, 10/11) – who will take on Wigan and St Helens respectively in the other two ties.
Considering the way the games went in 2015, it’s hardly surprising to see all three Super League sides down as underdogs.
Last year’s NRL whitewash should be put into context though, as one of the wins was a hard-fought 18-12 victory for St George Illawarra Dragons against Warrington, while Brisbane needed golden point extra-time to see off Wigan; a classic tie which will be repeated on Saturday.
The final game though – a 39-0 hammering of St Helens by South Sydney – was an altogether different story.
The small matter of the salary cap means Super League sides are already one step behind their Australian rivals before they walk out onto the pitch.
Super League clubs can pay £1.8m in player wages, a figure that is dwarfed by the NRL’s £4m salary cap. No surprises then, that they are all odds-on to beat their English counterparts this weekend.
It all kicks off when St Helens host Sydney Roosters on Friday night. Saints will be eager to put right the wrongs of their showing in not only last year’s World Club Challenge, but their shock defeat to Salford last week.
James Roby is a huge miss for Saints and the odds are stacked against them beating a Roosters team that lost just six regular season NRL games last season.
Sydney have though, lost some key players from their 2015 squad in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Michael Jennings and James Maloney. On the injury front they’ll also be without international forwards Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Boyd Cordner.
The 2016 NRL season is yet to get underway , and while St Helens’ start to 2016 hasn’t been perfect, they’ll be hoping the fact they’ve got some miles in their legs will lead to them catching a new-look Roosters side cold on Merseyside – and can be backed at 11/4 to do just that.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.