The reigning Betfred Super League champions, St Helens, will travel to Australia in February 2023 to face NRL champions, Penrith Panthers, for the World Club Challenge in what will be new head coach, Paul Wellens’ first competitive fixture.
The match will take place at the home of the Panthers, the BlueBet Stadium on Saturday 18 February, 2023 (6pm KO local/ 7am UK).
In what will be a first for fans in the UK, the World Club Challenge will be broadcast free-to-air by Channel 4 and will be part of double header by the broadcaster that day with the Betfred Super League clash between Hull KR and Wigan Warriors live at 1pm.
This will mark the 8th time St Helens have played in the World Club Challenge, with two victories to their name, coming in 2001 and 2007, both against Brisbane Broncos.
Penrith Panthers have previously appeared twice in the World Club Challenge, being beaten by Wigan Warriors (1991) and also being beaten by Bradford Bulls (2004).
Due to St Helens travelling to Australia in early February, their Betfred Super League Round 1 fixture, due to be against Huddersfield Giants, has been postponed until a date later in the season. Details of which will be confirmed in due course.
Rhodri Jones, Super League chief commercial officer, said: “Following a two-year hiatus it is fantastic to see the world Club Challenge back in the calendar.
“Both teams have had phenomenal success in recent seasons, and it will be great to see the best from Betfred Super League taking on the best from the NRL in a winner takes all match up.”
St Helens R.F.C. Chairman Eamonn McManus said: “The 2023 season is the 150th anniversary of our Club. The only attainable achievement which has eluded us during our history is to be crowned World Club Champions in Australia.
“Many consider this Penrith Panthers side to be one of, if not the, best side in the history of the NRL. Similarly, St Helens are experiencing an unparalleled period of success in Super League.
“The game in Sydney will represent one of the greatest challenges that St Helens has ever faced. We are really looking forward to meeting it head-on.”
St Helens R.F.C. Head Coach Paul Wellens said: “Both ourselves and Penrith have had unrivalled success in recent years and we are relishing the opportunity to go over to Australia and test ourselves against what is undoubtedly a great team.
“It had been disappointing for us that we’ve been unable to have this contest in the last couple of years, but it’s great news not just for both Club’s, but for the game as a whole that the best teams in both competitions can once again compete in the World Club Challenge.
“We are obviously motivated by achieving further success, and this gives us as a Club an early opportunity to do exactly that in 2023, we aim to represent ourselves, the town of St Helens and the Super League competition in the best possible manner.”
Penrith Panthers chief executive officer Matt Cameron said: “On behalf of all at Panthers, we look forward to welcoming St Helens to BlueBet Stadium in February.
“St Helens have been the benchmark team in the Super League for several years now, which will give the Panthers a great challenge to start the new season.
“The World Club Challenge is an important piece of the rugby league calendar and it’s great to see the fixture return for the first time since 2020.”