Melbourne Storm v Leeds Rhinos preview: Stevie Ward ready for World Club Challenge
Watch live on Sky Sports Arena from 8.30am GMT on Friday
Last Updated: 16/02/18 8:34am
Leeds Rhinos forward Stevie Ward says playing in the World Club Challenge against Melbourne Storm will help make up for the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup.
The 24-year-old made a remarkable recovery from a dislocated shoulder to help the Rhinos beat Castleford in October's Super League Grand Final.
But he was forced to undergo further surgery after the Old Trafford decider, which ruled him out of England's campaign.
"Of course I was gutted about missing the World Cup but it's a new season, it's a new challenge and it's really exciting to go over for the World Club Challenge," said the second-rower.
Ward made his comeback in Rhinos' second round 20-11 Super League win over Hull KR and is raring to go against Melbourne at AAMI Park on Friday, live on Sky Sports Arena from 8.30am GMT.
"I played in 2013 against Melbourne at Headingley when we just couldn't get over the line in the last 10 minutes," he said.
"So there's a bit of past experience to try and overcome and to do it in their backyard would be brilliant. It's such a rare occurrence for a Super League team to go over there.
"It's a really big challenge, but an opportunity for a lot of boys in our side to prove themselves.
"It would be nice to notch our names up on that trophy and create a bit of history by doing it in their backyard."
While Melbourne are still in pre-season, Leeds have the benefit of having played two league games to gain some match fitness - something that coach Brian McDermott said might help his side's cause - and Ward is expecting a close-fought contest.
"Melbourne will be a well-oiled machine," he said. "They've had some pre-season training and they've also got that experience of last year and how to win big games.
"We've had a couple of games under our belt, I'd imagine it will be a pretty fair contest on that side of things."
Meanwhile, Melbourne Storm have named 11 members of their 2017 NRL Grand Final-winning team in their starting line-up for Friday's fixture.
The side comprises five of Australia's victorious World Cup squad, including veterans Billy Slater and Cameron Smith and former Wigan forward Ryan Hoffman, who has rejoined Storm from New Zealand Warriors.
Hoffman, who will be playing in his fifth World Club Challenge, is a straight replacement for Tohu Harris, while Brodie Croft is given first chance to fill Cooper Cronk's No 7 jersey.
Melbourne captain Cameron Smith has said that victory over Leeds would match last season's Grand Final success and captaining Australia to the World Cup.
"I have been lucky enough to play in two World Club Challenges and both of those matches were against Leeds in England," said Smith.
"It is just as important as the other big matches I have played in my career. It is nice to be able to win a World Club Challenge and be crowned the world champion club side.
"Having the opportunity to play in front of our home fans - which has never been done in Melbourne - is very exciting. We are really keen to play in front of our own fans and play well."
Melbourne: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Brodie Croft; 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Tim Glasby, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 13 Dale Finucane.
Interchange (from): 14 Brandon Smith, 15 Nelson Asofa Solomona, 16 Kenny Bromwich, 17 Christian Welch, 18 Joe Stimson, 19 Young Tonumaipea, 20 Tui Kamikamica, 21 Ryley Jacks
Leeds (from): Ashton Golding, Tom Briscoe, Kallum Watkins, Liam Sutcliffe, Ryan Hall, Joel Moon, Richie Myler, Adam Cuthbertson, Matt Parcell, Brad Singleton, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Stevie Ward, Brad Dwyer, Brett Delaney, Jimmy Keinhorst, Jack Ormondroyd, Jack Walker, Josh Walters