#Top10Tuesday: WCS match-ups
This weekend boasts a triple-header over in Ol' Blighty, with some of the NRL's top talent off for what are sure to be three high-intensity games against some of the Super League's best.
In addition to the traditional World Club Challenge between the respective 2014 premiers – South Sydney v St Helens, in this case, on Monday morning Australian time – there are two extra World Club Series games this year with the Dragons meeting Warrington on Saturday morning and Wigan hosting Brisbane on Sunday morning. There are internationals on display in every game, and a fair smattering of ex-NRL talent in the Super League ranks. We take a look at 10 of the most mouth-watering individual match-ups.
10. Justin Hodges v Joel Tomkins
A couple of classy centres face off in the middle of the weekend when Wigan host Brisbane. Joel (older brother of New Zealand Warriors fullback Sam) scored a brace of tries last week against Huddersfield and Hodges will have to show why he is such an underrated defensive centre when he faces off against this talented three-quarter. Tomkins himself will have his hands full with Hodges showing in his recent Indigenous All Stars outing that his relentless dummy-half scoots will be a force again this year.
9. Joel Monaghan v Euan Aitken
New Wolves skipper, 32-year-old Joel Monaghan, may have left the NRL in ignominious circumstances but he's become a leader in every sense in his four seasons at Warrington and a try-scoring machine to boot – racking up better than a try a game over 120-odd games. At the other end of the experience scale is Junior Kangaroo Aitken, who will be pressing hard for a Round 1 spot at either centre or wing for the Dragons and will do his chances no harm with a big game up against a quality Wolves backline that also includes Welsh international Rhys Evans.
8. Chris Hill and Ashton Sims v Rory O'Brien and Leeson Ah Mau
On paper the Wolves should be the stronger of these two sides up front, with England Test prop Chris Hill and Fiji enforcer and ex-Cowboy Sims taking on the less-heralded O'Brien and Ah Mau. For many St George Illawarra fans it could be their first glimpse of former Cutters prop O'Brien, one of the men they will be hoping reasserts their dominance in the middle when the NRL season gets underway. He could also play himself into a Round 1 jersey with a big game here alongside Samoan Four Nations forward Ah Mau.
7. Ben Creagh v Ben Westwood
Dragons skipper Creagh has been named at lock for St George Illawarra and England international Ben Westwood has lined up at lock for the Wolves in their two games so far this season. Both are gritty middle players who rack up plenty of minutes so expect them to come together often. Westwood could well have a point to prove since being demoted as co-captain (a role he shared last year with now-retired former Sea Eagle and Raider Michael Monaghan) in favour of Michael's younger brother, centre and ex-Raider Joel Monaghan, at the start of the year.
6. Travis Burns v Luke Keary
St Helens five-eighth Travis Burns has forged a solid career for himself in the UK, joining one of Super League's heavyweight teams this season after departing Hull last year following on from stints at Manly, North Queensland and Penrith. He'll face off against freshly re-signed Rabbitohs youngster Keary, who will be hoping to kick off what should be his first full year as Rabbitohs five-eighth by picking up where he left off in the side's Grand Final win.
5. Matt Bowen v Jordan Kahu
Kahu looks likely to get first crack at the Brisbane fullback role in 2015 following an Achilles injury to Darius Boyd, but had a fairly unhappy time under the high ball in a recent trial. For his part, one of North Queensland's favourite sons Bowen had an unhappy debut of his own when he first stepped out for Wigan in place of departed superstar Sam Tomkins in early 2014, drawing the ire of the crowd before eventually helping the club to a Grand Final appearance, winning over the home fans and signing on for a second season. We're not sure if he'll have any words of advice for this weekend's opposite number but Kahu could do far worse than look to the example Bowen has set over a storied career.
4. Liam Farrell and Sean O'Loughlin v Corey Parker and Sam Thaiday
Two England internationals face off against two Kangaroos in the middle game of the weekend. All four men were in action in the Four Nations group match between their countries in October (O'Loughlin as captain) when the Aussies earned the bragging rights, following on from their World Cup win when again all four protagonists were involved. That all counts for nothing when the Broncos visit Wigan on their home patch this weekend though.
3. Joe Burgess and Josh Charnley v Dan Vidot and Lachlan Maranta
Wigan boast some supreme firepower out wide in the shape of English Test wingers Charnley and Burgess. Burgess (no relation to the Rabbitohs' Burgess brothers) is headed to the Roosters in 2016 and was in Australia recently with England's Four Nations squad. For Brisbane, Vidot was one of the top metre-getters across the NRL in 2014 while the oft-maligned Maranta never let anyone down. However they will have a huge job aiming up against this potent pair on Sunday morning.
2. Mose Masoe v George Burgess
Speaking of Four Nations combatants, big George Burgess travels back to his homeland with premiers South Sydney and will come up against giant Samoan prop Mose Masoe, who himself is celebrating a title with St Helens. Masoe was in vintage form in the Four Nations and will be looking to put his stamp on this one early against one of the form props in the world.
1. Issac Luke v James Roby
Long-term England Test rake Roby is closing in on 300 Super League games for the Saints while regular NRL fans need no reminder about the potency of regular Rabbitohs and Kiwi hooker Luke. Both are fearsome competitors and have a huge role to play in controlling the pace and structure of their side out of dummy half. Roby kicked off his 2015 Super League campaign a fortnight ago with a stunning 65 tackles and six tackle breaks against Catalans, including a rampaging run from dummy half that set up one of the tries of the week. Luke was devastating in both the recent Auckland Nines and last year's Four Nations, meaning this should be one cracker of a match-up.