Rugby League Expert & Columnist
Brian Carney looks ahead to World Club Challenge and at Wigan Warriors' potent pack
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Last Updated: 13/02/19 6:18pm
This week Brian Carney focuses his attentions on Sunday's World Club Challenge. The Sky Sports expert looks at the Roosters' strengths and the Wigan forwards "capable of upsetting" the high-profile visiting team.
There's a bumper crowd expected at the DW Stadium on Sunday, a crowd that will be packed with die-hard Wigan fans and neutrals alike, for a game in the calendar that I think is precious to the sport.
I salute the people that nearly 20 years ago took the decision to instate it as an annual fixture once again. I think that if we were to lose it, it would be a crying shame. In fact, a disgrace.
I know that these are sentiments echoed by the Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson and this is the first of the things that Wigan have got going against them.
Not only are they facing the NRL champions, they're facing a side coached by a man who will impress upon his players the importance of this game and the importance of the Roosters taking it seriously and putting on a show.
Join that up with the fact that they have got Cooper Cronk, this time playing with two shoulders as opposed to a Grand Final performance where he may as well have had his arm in a sling.
Despite that he still had the mastery to guide his team to victory and again this weekend he'll have the dynamo that is Luke Keary beside him.
In fact, unsurprisingly the list of stars goes on and on. If you're a rugby league neutral that alone is reason enough to tune in.
Now, what about what Wigan will have in their corner?
Well firstly there's no Latrell Mitchell, the club decided to back the player's decision to play in the All Stars game and that can only benefit the Cherry and Whites.
The other thing that they've got in their corner, I believe, is a motley crew front row that is capable of upsetting the high-profile visiting team.
Often Australian friends of mine, ex-players, remark about how they hated paying against "big, aggressive, nasty British packs of forwards".
I think the inference was that the subtleties that the opposition threw at them they could handle, it was almost this 'base' approach to the game that rocked them.
Now I want to explore, not a British pack of forwards far from it, but a motley crew that I believe can inflict damage on this Roosters pack.
It's a Welshman, Frenchman, a cockney, an Aussie and a man who has just returned to Wigan from Cumbria
Let's start with the southerner… Tony Clubb I'm hearing has developed himself into one of the true leaders at the Wigan Warriors. Both in his actions on the field and how he conducts himself off the field.
His big. He's aggressive and I have no doubt he'll leave Keary and Cronk on the ground post kick and pass on a few occasions.
He's one of the loudest voices in their dressing room and another one who contributes into positive pre-match communication is their nuggety Welsh prop Ben Flower.
Anybody who follows Super League will know the journey that Ben has been on since the 2014 Grand Final.
He has grown in stature as not only one of Wigan's most important forwards, but I believe as one of the game's best props.
He knows what he needs to do for the Warriors and he does it very well and is another who will be licking his lips at the prospect of locking horns with Siosiua Taukeiaho and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
🏆GRAND FINAL FACT🏆— Sky Sports RL (@SkySportsRL) October 12, 2018
🇫🇷 Romain Navarrete will become the first Frenchman to appear in a Grand Final if he starts for Wigan tomorrow.
What price the big prop scoring a rare try, too, at Old Trafford? 🏉
He has waited over 4 years for the second 4-pointer of his career! pic.twitter.com/szkQ8wPaH7
Now what about the man from across the channel? The word I was hearing a couple of years ago was that Romain Navarrete wasn't fitting in at the DW Stadium and might indeed have been on his way out without ever having played any sort of significant role at the club. Luckily for him and the Warriors fans that never came to pass.
Language is a barrier for Romain but I believe the club has simplified his role to make sure that won't be an issue and that he can focus on what he does best - barrelling into opposition packs.
Last year at Old Trafford he was one of the faces that I focused on after the match and thought: 'what a journey he's been on in a short period of time'.
It took a long journey to get Gabe Hamlin to the Warriors. I don't think it's unkind to say that he's one of the lowest profile overseas recruits in recent memory. That doesn't mean he won't turn out to be one of the best.
This is a man oozing enthusiasm for the opportunity that he's been given in the Super League. And, if his opening couple of games to this season are anything to go by, he may be one of the best value pound to Aussie dollar recruits that the Wigan club has made.
But, there can't be any better value in Super League (I know we're only two games in) than the big Wiganer, who started as a winger and now finds himself earning plaudits from across the game for his performances in the front row. I am of course talking about Joe Bullock.
I was fortunate enough to be at the Warrington Wolves in an off-field capacity when they signed Chris Hill from Leigh. Here was a man who would be forgiven for thinking a real crack at Super League had been and gone in his life.
When presented with a second opportunity Chris was not going to let this one pass. He trained with more enthusiasm and harder than anybody else.
He did train like he had a point to prove and I suppose he did have a point to prove. He wasn't going to get selected on reputation, he wasn't going to be given another chance in the team following a bad performance because 'you know what you get from Hilly'. That didn't exist.
There wasn't a library of performances from Chris Hill that would ensure him a place in the team. So he had to be more enthusiastic, be a harder worker and be more determined than anybody else. He had to be those and be seen as such. He was and he lit a fire under the other players at the club.
We're all only human and can quickly become accustomed to luxuries and being a professional player is a luxury. Sometimes takes a Chris Hill or a Joe Bullock to remind you what a privileged position it is to be in full-time employment playing sport.
Proud moment to receive my debut shirt from Tony Newton, and to share it with my family who have been with me from the beginning of the journey was special. Looking forward to it tomorrow! 🏉 @WiganWarriorsRL #rugbyleague #family pic.twitter.com/hBvCov96g7— Joe Bullock (@JoeBullock27) January 30, 2019
I believe Joe Bullock will have the same effect Wigan as Chris Hill had on Warrington. Let me tell you, if Joe Bullock goes onto achieve a fraction of what Chris Hill has, then Wigan have got the steel of the century in their recruitment from Barrow.
So, while it won't be a big aggressive pack of British forwards that the Roosters will face on Sunday. It will be an effective mix of personalities and nationalities with just enough "nastiness" to create a group that I'll call "Lamy's heroes".
There may be no Clint Eastwood or Telly Savalas but on your Sky Sports' screen on Sunday you may well see a Hollywood ending.