Headingley to stage World Club Challenge 2012

St George Illawarra players celebrate their World Club Challenge victory
St George Illawarra players celebrate their 2011 World Club Challenge victory over Wigan

The 2012 World Club Challenge between English champions Leeds Rhinos and Australian champions Manly Sea Eagles will be played at Headingley.

But Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington has warned it could be the last played in England for some time.

Hetherington said Super League champions Leeds would have been prepared to travel to Australia.

He said: "It turned out to be too short a time scale for 2012 but it's very much on the agenda for the future."

The game will be played on Friday, 17 February.

NRL Grand Final winners Manly had proposed a Middle Eastern venue.

Hetherington told a press conference at Headingley: "Whilst there has been talk about [playing outside England] for the last eight or nine years, it's never really got far.

"But just recently there does seem to be an appetite, particularly from the Australian clubs, to start to explore that possibility.

"I think the fact that we were prepared to play the game in Australia probably took the Australians by surprise and it made the NRL think seriously about staging it.

"A lot of preparatory work could be done. Indeed, if it was to be in Dubai or the Emirates, work could start now for 2013."

The Rhinos have managed to secure home advantage after playing their four previous fixtures at Elland Road, home of Leeds United.

Huddersfield's Galpharm Stadium, which hosted three Challenges featuring Bradford Bulls, was considered because of its undersoil heating but Hetherington is confident Headingley can be protected against frost.

"We desperately want to win the game and if our crowd and our home stadium gives us that edge we'll certainly take it," added Hetherington.

"Whatever the weather can throw up, we'll make sure the pitch is fit. We now have a lot of technology and we won't have a game here for two weeks prior to that game."

With Headingley's capacity currently set at 20,000, the crowd will be well down on the Rhinos' previous Club Challenge matches at Elland Road. Leeds' meeting with Manly in 2009, which the Aussies won 28-20, was watched by 32,569.

Last year saw St George Illawarra beat Wigan 21-15 at the DW Stadium.

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