Super League must triumph in World Club Series, says Radlinski
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Wigan Warriors rugby director Kris Radlinski insists that Super League must come out on top in this year’s World Club Series against their NRL opponents to give the concept more credibility.
A Super League club has not been successful against their Australian counterparts since Leeds Rhinos defeated Manly in 2012, and since the World Club Series was expanded in 2015, Super League clubs have suffered six defeats in six matches.
Radlinski believes next month’s smaller version of the World Club Series, which sees Warrington Wolves host Brisbane Broncos before Wigan and Cronulla battle it out for the World Club Challenge, is a chance to show the rest of the world that Super League is catching the NRL up and that the gulf is not as wide as some would suggest.
“I believe it’s important for us and it’s important for the game”, said Radlinski, when asked how vital it was for Wigan to come out victorious in 2017.
“We (Wigan) have lost the last four, against Brisbane twice, the Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra, so it’s something that we are very aware of. I have been involved in many strategy meetings at Super League HQ and everyone is under no illusions – to give the series credibility, an English side needs to win a game.
“We came close against Brisbane two years ago with a draw after 80 minutes but, for everyone’s sanity, we need a win. There is a great buzz around the game, bigger than I have felt it for a long time.
“With just a touch over five weeks to go we have already beaten the hospitality sales for both of the last two years’ games against Brisbane Broncos and with sales still steady each day we are potentially looking to be on target to add 20 or 25 per cent to the sales achieved in 2016.”
While fans and experts alike have their eye on the World Club Series, Radlinski is eager to point out that winning the Super League Grand Final again is Wigan’s main aim and they will be determined not to let their league form slump before and after the visit of Cronulla.
“Of course, getting a trophy early on is important, especially when it’s one as prestigious as the World Club Challenge, but what’s massively important also is how we react after such a high-profile game.
“All the focus pre-season is about this game, but there may be natural dip after it. We need to manage this with the players. We have an important game against Widnes just five days later, and they have beaten us on the last couple of visits to the DW Stadium. Our performance staff are very aware of designing a programme that takes us through the different stages of a demanding season.”
And Radlinski is happy with the way new signings Morgan Escaré and Romain Navarrete have settled into the Wigan squad.
“The French guys have been great. It’s a new challenge for us all but they are adapting very well. They have English lessons every week now, but you pick things up very easily in Rugby League. With the technology available and video footage, using images is often easier than language. However, Google Translate has been used a few times.
“The injured guys are like new signings too. Clubby and Joel (Tomkins) are incredibly important players and leaders for us. We missed their presence at times last year. The injuries meant that younger players were exposed earlier than they would be normally, but they came through the other side and will benefit from that experience.
“Let’s not forget that Sam Tomkins and Micky McIlorum have also to come back into this squad. “This squad will challenge for the major trophies again, I am confident of that, but we need to be aware that everyone wants to knock people off the top spot, so I don’t expect an easy game all season.”
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