Trent Robinson's Roosters have history in their sights when they take on St Helens at Totally Wicked Stadium on Sunday morning (AEDT).
If the Roosters win, they will become the first back-to-back winners in the fixture's 34-year history. It would also be their fifth World Club Challenge title, which would move them to outright first place ahead of Wigan.
The Tricolours will have to make do without a host of grand final stars, including the retired Cooper Cronk and captain Boyd Cordner, who is a late scratching. The Saints also have injury worries with two of their biggest names racing the clock.
Match: Saints v Roosters
Round 1 -
Fullback for Saints is number 22 Jack WelsbyFullback for Roosters is number 1 James Tedesco
Winger for Saints is number 2 Thomas MakinsonWinger for Roosters is number 2 Daniel Tupou
Centre for Saints is number 3 Kevin NaiqamaCentre for Roosters is number 3 Angus Crichton
Centre for Saints is number 20 James BentleyCentre for Roosters is number 4 Joseph Manu
Winger for Saints is number 21 Matthew CostelloWinger for Roosters is number 5 Brett Morris
Five-Eighth for Saints is number 6 Jonny LomaxFive-Eighth for Roosters is number 6 Luke Keary
Halfback for Saints is number 7 Theo FagesHalfback for Roosters is number 7 Kyle Flanagan
Prop for Saints is number 8 Alex WalmsleyProp for Roosters is number 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Hooker for Saints is number 9 James RobyHooker for Roosters is number 9 Jake Friend
Prop for Saints is number 10 Luke ThompsonProp for Roosters is number 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho
2nd Row for Saints is number 11 Zeb Taia2nd Row for Roosters is number 11 Sitili Tupouniua
2nd Row for Saints is number 12 Dominique Peyroux2nd Row for Roosters is number 12 Mitchell Aubusson
Lock for Saints is number 14 Morgan KnowlesLock for Roosters is number 13 Victor Radley
Interchange for Saints is number 13 Louie McCarthy-ScarsbrookInterchange for Roosters is number 14 Sam Verrills
Interchange for Saints is number 15 Matty LeesInterchange for Roosters is number 15 Isaac Liu
Interchange for Saints is number 18 Joseph PauloInterchange for Roosters is number 16 Nat Butcher
Interchange for Saints is number 19 Aaron SmithInterchange for Roosters is number 17 Lindsay Collins
- Referee: Chris Kendall
Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Angus Crichton 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 7. Kyle Flanagan 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend © 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Sitili Tupouniua 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Victor Radley. Interchange: 14. Sam Verrills 15. Isaac Liu 16. Nat Butcher 17. Lindsay Collins 18. Matthew Ikuvalu 19. Poasa Faamausili 20. Asu ‘AJ’ Kepaoa 21. Lachlan Lam
The Roosters grand final team has lost halfback Cooper Cronk (retirement) and centre Latrell Mitchell (Rabbitohs), while skipper Boyd Cordner travelled with the team but won't play.
Hooker Sam Verrills stayed in Australia where he featured in last weekend's NRL Nines in Perth before jetting over to take a bench spot. Sitili Tupouniua will start for Cordner while Origin forward Angus Crichton will play in the centres in the absence of Mitchell.
Former Shark Kyle Flanagan will make his club debut in the halves while a fit-again Jake Friend reclaims his starting hooker role.
St Helens: Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Luke Thompson, Zeb Taia, Dom Peyroux, Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Morgan Knowles, Matty Lees, Kyle Amor, Joseph Paulo, Aaron Smith, James Bentley, Matty Costello, Jack Welsby, Lewis Dodd, Tom Nisbet.
All of James Tedesco's tries from 2019
Star hooker James Roby (groin) plays his first game since the grand final win over Salford but fullback Lachlan Coote (knee) has not recovered in time after picking up an injury in round one, also against Salford.
Wales flyer Regan Grace is also out after suffering a head knock last week against Hull FC.
Many Australian fans will be familiar with the likes of former Knight Zeb Taia, former Wests Tiger Kevin Naiqama, former Titan and Warrior Dom Peyroux, former Shark and Eel Joseph Paulo plus England stars Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Alex Walmsley and Belmore-bound prop Luke Thompson.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Siosiua Taukeiaho v Alex Walmsley and Luke Thompson. Two all-international prop pairings will set the tone for what should be a physical clash. The Roosters duo were arguably the form front row of the NRL through the latter stages of 2019 while the powerful Saints pair are both incumbent Great Britain players.
For the Roosters to win
Robinson has been fairly happy in recent years to taper the Tricolours' pre-seasons with a view to building momentum through the season and with a new young halfback in Kyle Flanagan you can expect an even more stripped-back approach.
However, with Robinson also very much in tune with the game's history, don't expect the Chooks to take this one lightly – they'll be going for simplicity, building momentum off their traditionally impregnable goal-line defence and relying on the likes of James Tedesco and Luke Keary to create enough points when they get a chance in attack.
For St Helens to win
The Saints have the advantage of being three rounds into their season so should have the cobwebs blown out. They've had two big wins either side of a surprise shutout at the hands of Warrington.
The downside, of course, is the handful of injuries they have already picked up. Their ball movement at the line has been a feature of their attack but will need to be slick to crack the Roosters' defence – their best bet is to focus their attack on the new faces coming in for Mitchell and Cronk on the edges.
The Roosters timed their run perfectly in 2019, coming from fourth with eight rounds to go to finish second, three wins behind the Storm, with 17 wins, four losses and a +264 differential.
By contrast, and in an admittedly much more lopsided competition, the Saints were near unbeatable last season, losing just three regular-season games. They finished eight wins clear of second-placed Wigan with 26 wins, three losses and a +521 differential.
And another thing …
This match will be a rematch of the first WCC game, when Arthur Beetson captained Easts to a 25-2 win over St Helens in 1976.