Paul Wellens is getting ready for his first competitive game in charge of St Helens as he takes charge of his boyhood team in the World Club Challenge down under up against back to back NRL Champions Penrith Panthers.
As always when an Australian side takes on a British team there are plenty of narratives such as the often referred to gulf in class between the NRL and Super League.
We have seen Phil Gould and others claim that the Panthers “will be able to declare by halftime” even after Saints’ win over St George Illawarra Dragons on Saturday.
There is one narrative that keeps rearing its head no matter how many times the Saints shoot it down and that is the threat of the conditions with the game set to be played in extreme heat.
It now seems that Wellens is sick of this talk as he referenced a number of examples when the Saints have dealt with this kind of heat.
“The one thing quite a lot of Australians mention when we come over is the heat but what people have got to realise is that we do occasionally have hot days in the UK as well – and trips to Toulouse and trips to Perpignan,” Wellens said to the NRL.com
“We’ve had those experiences and we played Castleford at Wembley in 2021, which was 100 degrees Fahrenheit [40 degrees Celsius] pitch side so lads have had experiences of these types of challenges.
“Obviously, it’s different to what we’re used to, but we make no excuses there. The conditions are the conditions, and we will adapt accordingly.”
The game, among others, has changed kick-off time as consequence to the heat.
The decision was made due to player safety concerns around the forecasted heat and humidity in Regional NSW and Western Sydney.
The NRL has thanked broadcast partners FOX, SKY NZ and SKY UK as well as participating clubs (St George Illawarra Dragons, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Penrith Panthers, St Helens, Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys) as well as venues for their cooperation and flexibility.
Updated UK kick off times for Saturday’s games
5.20am — Dragons v Rabbitohs at Glen Willow Oval, Mudgee
7.50am — Panthers v St Helens at Bluebet Stadium, Penrith
9:55am — Broncos v Cowboys at Sunshine Coast Stadium
The World Club Challenge is set to be shown live on Channel 4 with coverage starting from 6:45 am.
Meanwhile Sky Sports will also be showing the game on Main Event and Arena from 7:00 am.
These changes come as Saints were warned of “deadly” weather.
To help both sides cope with the forecast 39 degrees temperatures at Penrith, the NRL has introduced a number of changes for the WCC, including:
Each team allowed to use 18 players
Increased interchanges from eight to 10
Playing the match in quarters to allow additional water breaks
Restrictions eased on trainers to enable them to provide water to players.