sport

Rhinos to face Storm at home

Leeds will defend their World Club Challenge title against Melbourne Storm on home soil.

Headingley will stage the annual clash of the champions - for the second time - on Friday, February 22, Super League announced today.

The Grand-Final winners will be aiming to become the first team to win the title four time while NRL champions Melbourne will be hoping to become the first Australian club to win it three times.

The Rhinos are guaranteed to break one record as they overtake Wigan's record of five WCC appearances.

After staging their first four matches at Elland Road, including two against Melbourne, Leeds drew a capacity crowd of 21,062 at Headingley for their 26-12 win over Manly Sea Eagles last February.

The 2013 clash will be played on the club's new pitch which is expected to cost around 1million when it is completed next month and will include undersoil heating to guarantee there will be no postponement.

Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington said: "Having spoken to fans, young and old, the Manly game ranks as one of the greatest nights ever in the club's history and I am sure fans will be keen to snap up tickets for this clash against the Storm.

"We had a sell-out crowd last season and the interest in this game is extremely high already.

"The chance to see players like Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith play at Headingley Carnegie is also an obvious attraction and I am sure the World Club Challenge will be the perfect way to kick off a massive year for the sport with the World Cup coming to England later in the year.

"We have invested heavily in our new pitch during the close season, which will not only guarantee the fixture with our new undersoil heating system but also present a perfect stage on which the two best teams in the world can go head to head."

British clubs have won 12 of the 18 WCC matches since 1987 and have hosted each of the last 13.

A working party is currently looking into the feasibility of having neutral or Australian venues and expanding the competition.

Storm will leave Australia on Tuesday, February 12, and will spend time training and preparing for the match in London before travelling north.

Melbourne general manager (football) Frank Ponissi said: "We value this game highly and will be looking to give ourselves the best chance to claim another World Club Challenge title."

In 2010 Storm played London Broncos in a friendly to warm up for their clash with the Rhinos.