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Australian press writing off Wigan Warriors ahead of World Club Challenge after “huge blow”

Wigan Warriors celebrate winning the 2023 Grand Final

Wigan Warriors are already gearing up towards the World Club Challenge against Penrith Panthers at the start of the 2024 season.

Straight after their Grand Final win over Catalans Dragons, the Warriors made it crystal clear that they were eyeing up the prospect of becoming world champions. Head Coach Matt Peet made it clear he wanted to test his side down under against the three-peat winners of the NRL, just like St Helens did successfully in 2023.

It was also suggested that the game could join the opening NRL fixtures in Las Vegas but that never materialised. Instead, Wigan will host the game as they did in 2019, 2017 and 2011. They won one of those three encounters, losing to St George Illawarra Dragons in 2011 and Sydney Roosters in 2019 but defeating Cronulla Sharks in between.

Many believe the Warriors will have what it takes to defeat the NRL Champions but the Daily Telegraph is not so sure claiming that the Warriors have already suffered “a huge blow” ahead of the game because of the loss of Morgan Smithies and Kai Pearce-Paul.

The Telegraph claimed: “Morgan Smithies wasn’t the only Wigan star from the side’s champion outfit to be picked off by an NRL side. The Knights have snapped up back rower Kai Pearce-Paul on a two-year deal.

“The loss of the forward duo are a huge blow to Wigan’s chances in February’s World Club Challenge hit out against three-time NRL premiers Penrith.”

They were full of praise for Kai Pearce-Paul saying: “The 22-year-old forward is one of two Englishman who have landed at the Knights for 2024, but what makes him a top recruit is how brilliantly he will slip into the starting side. The exit of Lachlan Fitzgibbon to the Super League opens up a spot on the left edge where Kalyn Ponga like to hang, and Pearce-Paul lands at the perfect time to fill it as an international forward fresh off a premiership with Wigan.”

Pearce-Paul has been at the centre of a controversial saga since he arrived in the NRL with Newcastle Knights. This is because they have bemoaned the fact Wigan played him with an injury resulting in need of surgery.

That injury saw Pearce-Paul ruled out of Shaun Wane’s England squad to face Tonga, instead he headed to Australia to get ahead on the rehab as early as possible. He’s joined at Newcastle by ex-Huddersfield Giants starlet Will Pryce, the pair both having secured deals late in 2022.

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