The Rhinos are looking for a record fourth World Club Challenge victory and going one better than Wigan and Bradford. Winners in 2005, 2008, over Melbourne Storm, and 2012, doesn;t take into account the moral victory in 2010 over a later disgraced Storm.
This looks like it might be the toughest ask of all our World Cup Challenge games as we come up against the very best of the southern hemisphere and a team studded with stars.
Earlier in the week we received confirmation that Ryan Bailey and Zak Hardaker would be missing for the big night, the only good piece of injury news was the likely return of Joe Vickery. It seems
likely that Kallum Watkins will be asked to fill the unfamiliar full back role and the centres are likely to look makeshift at best. Peacock and Delaney return after being rested last for last
weeks easy victory over the Salford Reds and Richard Moore retains his place in the nineteen.
Brian McDermott will put his trust in the hands of seventeen of the following; Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire (making his 300th appearance), Burrow, Leuluai, McShane, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan,
Ablett, Sinfield, Ward, Delaney, Kirke, Clarkson, Achurch, Moore, Keinhorst, and Vickery. I'd suspect that Moore and Keinhorst will be the two to miss out, but we all know that the Big Mac team
selections rarely follow the logic of us mere mortals.
Melbourne have already named their starting thirteen and mighty impressive it is. It comtains Australia and Queensland skipper Cameron Smith, Aussie internationals Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk,
and England stand-off Gareth Widdop.
The starting thirteen are; Slater, Fonua, O'Neill, Chambers, Waqa, Widdop, Cronk, J Bromwich, Smith, Norrie, Harris, Hoffman, and Hinchcliffe. The bench spots will be selected from; Ryles, Finch,
Vave, Moors, K Bromwich, and Setu before kick-off.
This is Melbournes' fourth World Club Challenge match. They beat St Helens 44-4 back in 2000 and so far, on paper, it is honours even in the two games with the Rhinos. Some would argue that the
Storm win at Elland Road in 2010 should be expunged from the record books as Melbourne were later stripped of the title and prize money after salary cap breaches.
This is the Rhinos fifth WCC in six years, and sixth in nine. A victory tonight would make us the most successful team in the twenty-one game history of the War of the Worlds.
I've gone with a Storm win, based on my head rather than my heart. I think that we'll miss Zak and Ryan but the weeks rest for Jamie and Brett should have done them the world of good. We can win, but we will have to be in Grand Final form, and Storm will have to be off their game.
The bookies have given us a six point start, but I hope that the game will be even closer than that.
It is going to be bitterly cold tonight, which could be in our favour, although there is no risk of any frost thanks to the Rhinos new state of the art pitch.
I just hope that the sell-out crowd will witness a classic, and that Sir Kev will be lifting aloft the trophy after eighty enthralling minutes.
Enjoy the game and sing the lads to victory.