Kristian Woolf: St Helens can see Sydney Roosters test as a barometer of progress

Kristian Woolf
Kristian Woolf has now taken charge of St Helens after the conclusion of Tonga's autumn series

St Helens' World Club Challenge tussle with reigning world and National Rugby League champions Sydney Roosters will be a test of Super League's progress, says new head coach Kristian Woolf.

Saints have been the stand-out team in Super League for two seasons, winning 52 of 59 regular season games.

Grand Final success against Salford earned them a meeting with Trent Robinson's premiers on 22 February.

"It's a big task but a challenge and opportunity we want," Woolf said.

"We want to see where we sit with them, they've been the benchmark of the NRL in the past two years and them and the Melbourne Storm have been the benchmark over the past decade.

"There's no better opportunity to see where you sit and to fly the flag for Super League than to play the world champion Roosters.

"We need to work hard over the pre-season and the early games to be up for the challenge."

World pedigree for the Red Vee

St Helens half-back Sean Long's drop goal at Bolton against Brisbane Broncos
St Helens edged a mudbath bruiser against Brisbane Broncos in 2001 thanks to two drop goals

Saints have already enjoyed some famous moments in World Club Challenge history, twice enjoying notable successes against Wayne Bennett's Brisbane Broncos.

However, two prior meetings with the Chooks, starting out with their 25-2 loss in the inaugural game in 1976 and a 38-0 thrashing in 2003, have ended in heavy losses.

The ruthless way in which Wigan were picked apart in 2019 by Robinson's Tricolours is another ominous marker, although Easts will be without talismanic half-back Cooper Cronk following his retirement.

Wigan's win against Cronulla in 2017 was the last time a Super League side beat an NRL premier.

Should Saints win at the Totally Wicked Stadium, they would move level with Bradford, Melbourne and Leeds with three final wins. The Roosters would surpass Wigan with five titles should they come out on top.

Excitement for Woolf at Super League test

James Tedesco
James Tedesco (right) is just one threat that St Helens will have to cope with against the Roosters

In addition to their prestigious fixture with the Roosters, there will also be scrutiny on Woolf and Saints, following two remarkable league campaigns under former coach Justin Holbrook.

Holbrook turned them into the dominant force in the Super League, reaching a Challenge Cup final in addition to Grand Final and League Leaders' Shield successes.

Yet Woolf, who developed Tonga into a major international competitor, guiding them to a World Cup semi-final and victories over Great Britain and Australia this autumn, is only positive about the task ahead.

"I'm very excited to be here," the 44-year-old added to BBC Radio Merseyside.

"I keep mentioning the word challenge. I'm very excited about the challenge in front of me."