Leeds happy with overseas title defence

PA Sport
Leeds will defend their world title after beating Warrington
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Leeds will defend their world title after beating Warrington

Leeds are preparing to defend their title of world club champions at Headingley next February but insist they would be happy to instead fly to Australia to take on Melbourne Storm.

The Rhinos earned the right to defend their world crown after beating Warrington 26-18 in the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford. The clash with the Storm, who beat Canterbury Bulldogs in the NRL Grand Final, will be a repeat of the 2008 and 2010 World Club Challenges which were both staged at Elland Road in front of crowds of 33,204 and 27,697.

Leeds hosted Manly Sea Eagles at Headingley in February, winning 26-12, and Hetherington expects home advantage again. He said: "We're going to be entertaining without doubt one of the best rugby league teams of all time in the Melbourne Storm and it's going to be great to bring them to Headingley and stage the match on our new pitch which we will have in place in the next six weeks."

Leeds will start work on Monday on laying a new £1million pitch which will include undersoil heating to remove any threat to the match from an English winter.

The annual clash of the champions has been staged in England every year since it was revived in 2000 - Brisbane were the last Australian team to host it when they lost to Wigan in 1995 - and Super League teams have won eight of the 13 contests so far.

Hetherington is on a joint working party looking at revamping the World Club Challenge and he insists alternate or neutral venues remain a likely outcome in the future.

"There has been a lot of work done on that," he said. "There is no doubt that we will be working towards expanding the World Club Championship and playing it in alternate hemispheres as well.

"For next year the plan was to play it in England but it could be subject to change if the NRL wish to stage it. We're ready to go and have always been ready to go. The ball is very much in their court. When we were asked last year if we were prepared to go to Sydney to play Manly, to a man everybody said 'yes'.

"Our attitude is that we've always been prepared to go to Australia for what would be the ultimate challenge. It's an NRL and SLE competition - it's not within our gift to say where we're playing - but, as far as we're concerned, we're able and willing to get on a plane and play it in Melbourne.

"Whether it's at Headingley or Melbourne, we're really looking forward to flying the flag for Super League and for British rugby league."

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