Rugby League - Coaches back Challenge expansion plans

Representatives of the international game will on Monday be asked to press ahead with plans to expand the World Club Challenge and stage it in Australia.

PA Sport
Rugby League - Coaches back Challenge expansion plans
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Leeds Rhino's captain Kevin Sinfield lifts the trophy after his team's victory during the World Club Challenge match at Headingley

Clubs from the NRL and Super League have agreed in principle to the proposals and the International Federation are expected to ratify them at a meeting in Leeds. The annual challenge match will be held in England for the 13th year running when Melbourne Storm and Leeds meet at Headingley but next year will be held down under, while in 2015 it could be enlarged to take in six teams.

The idea has been mooted for several years but, under Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington, it appears to be gathering momentum. He said: "It's all meant to integrate with the international calendar. If there's an international tournament in one hemisphere, then the World Club Challenge will be in the other."

Hetherington added: "Down the track, we see this becoming a valuable TV commodity and hopefully a vehicle for promoting rugby league in new markets, such as Dubai or Hong Kong."

Australia last hosted the challenge in 1994 when Wigan beat Brisbane at Lang Park and current Warriors coach Shaun Wane, who played in the 1987 clash with Manly at Central Park, would relish the chance to take his team down under.

"I'd love to take my team over there and play them in their own backyard but so would everybody else," Wane said. "It gives you a bit more incentive towards the end of the year."

Warrington coach Tony Smith, who guided Leeds to victory over Canterbury Bulldogs in 2005, echoed Wane's sentiment.

"I've always said it would be great to do it on their side," he said. "It's certainly an advantage to be on home soil.

"I think the ultimate is to go to the other country and defeat them on their own turf. It would be much tougher to do but it would be much more satisfying.

"It would be nice to even be in that position. I only had the chance to do it once with Leeds."

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