Storm to host World Club Challenge

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    NRL premiers Melbourne Storm have got their way with the World Club Challenge, hosting Super League champions Leeds in February.

    The match was in doubt with the Storm refusing to travel to the UK, citing the heavy toll on their players from the current Rugby League World Cup as well as a testimonial match locked in for their captain Cameron Smith against Johnathan Thurston’s Cowboys in Brisbane on February 23.

    The Rhinos have agreed to play their first WCC outside of the UK, taking on the Storm at AAMI Park on February 16 – only the third time the decider will have been played in Australia.

    Storm coach Craig Bellamy said his Kangaroos representatives would only have a few weeks’ preparation but he still expected to field a strong side.

    They will definitely be missing newly-signed Sydney Rooster Cooper Cronk, as well as Jordan McLean (Cowboys) and Tohu Harris (Warriors).

    “It’s not the ideal time of the year but it’s hard to find the ideal time of the year,” Bellamy said on Tuesday.

    “We will certainly do our best to put our best team out there and I’m sure Leeds will do the same and it will be a carrot for our players to really put in in the pre-season to make sure we’re close to our best.

    “It will be a different team but we take the mentality that there’s some people gone so there’s some positions up for grabs.

    “If you want it you need to work hard for it and hopefully there will be a few young blokes who will do that.”

    He said veterans Smith and Test fullback Billy Slater would want to be involved.

    “At their stage in career they love playing in big games and this is a really big game,” Bellamy said.

    “Their preparation will be hindered and we will take that into consideration but they don’t take too much to get ready these days, they’ve done that many pre-seasons.”

    The two teams have met three times previously, with Melbourne triumphant in 2010 and 2013, although they had the 2010 title stripped as part of their salary cap-cheating penalties.