Paul Sculthorpe feels St Helens can topple Penrith if they play at their best

Paul Sculthorpe feels St Helens can topple Penrith if they play at their best

Paul Sculthorpe knows St Helens will need to be at their best to overcome National Rugby League champions Penrith in the World Club Challenge on Saturday.

Saints great Sculthorpe was twice a winner of the annual showpiece and knows what it takes to come out on top.

It is the first time the game is going ahead in two years after Covid twice cancelled the meeting between the leading English and Australian sides – with St Helens twice missing out, having won the Super League for the last four years.

But, the 45-year-old also feels it is a “great” time to play the Australian champions, as the sides face each other at the BlueBet Stadium in Penrith, New South Wales, this weekend.

Sculthorpe told the PA news agency: “Saints have had a couple of friendlies, but it’s a whole different ball game on Saturday.

“I think for Saints to win it, they have got to be at their best. But also, it’s a great time to catch Penrith, they have got to start quick and get in their faces and upset them.

“They have a lot of talented players but so do Saints. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to beat them at what they do, play the Saints way and play some rugby.”

Only one team from the Super League has won the clash in the last 10 years, when Wigan overcame the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 22-6 at the DW Stadium back in 2017.

On the other hand, Penrith have never been crowned World Club Challenge champions, losing in the final twice, and Sculthorpe believes nothing is won based on history.

“They are World Club challengers, it’s a one-off occasion and I don’t think you can refer to history books or whatever,” he continued.

“We’ve all had our successes, both English and Aussie teams so I don’t think history tells us anything apart from the 80 minutes.

“I really hope the best for Saints with my Saints hat on but also for the Super League and British rugby league that we do ourselves proud.”

The Super League champions have been Down Under for a couple of weeks in preparation for the game on Saturday, acclimatising to the warm weather.

New South Wales has been subject of extreme conditions which means kick off has been put back by 50 minutes, with temperatures expected to hit 37 degrees on Saturday.

But, Sculthorpe, who played nearly 250 times during a period of 11 years at Knowsley Road, thinks weather will not negatively impact the travelling side.

“It’s going to be warm, the guys have been over there for a couple of weeks, they are acclimatised,” he added.

“But if you can’t get up for a game like that in mid 30 degrees in Australia, playing in front of the world, you’re in the wrong game.

“I think players are used to it, like playing in the peak of summer over here, going to Catalans in July and August, it’s just as warm and I think they will be thriving off it.

“You see the boys over on the beaches in Australia and I’m sure they are thoroughly enjoying it. It’s going to be warm but they are fit athletes. They have just got to adapt to the conditions that are thrown at them.”