Roosters road to Wigan takes in France and emotional WWI tribute
NRL champions the Sydney Roosters prepared for this weekend’s World Club Challenge match against the Wigan Warriors by training in France — and taking time to pay an emotional tribute to thousands of fellow Australians who died in World War I.
“When you change environment you start having to make conscious decisions and questions things,” Roosters coach Trent Robinson told AFP on Wednesday.
“Coming to a different place with a different language, different weather and culture it offers them a new experience.”
The three-time World Club Challenge winners have also been to see war monuments in northern France including the Villers-Bretonneux Australian National Memorial and the location of the Battle of the Somme.
Around 10,000 Australian soldiers, who died between 1916 and the end of the war in 1918, are buried at Villers-Bretonneux.
“They are big parts of Australian and French history so for us we had all done a bit of research on it and it’s pretty moving to see the fields where so many Australians and French soldiers lost their lives,” hooker Jake Friend said.
“It was a really touching experience for the team to do and something I probably would not have done unless I was with the team and the coach,” he added.
The World Club Challenge fixture, which pits the winners of Australia and New Zealand’s top tier of competition against the champions of England’s Super League, has been held in England eight out of the past ten years.
Australian teams have traditionally chosen to base themselves in English cities before the game.
However, Robinson said his decision to head to France instead was because he has spent time playing with Toulouse Olympique.
The Australians faced the French club, who play in England’s second-tier Championship, in a practice session on Wednesday.
“I wanted to train against Toulouse and I wanted to offer an experience to a French rugby league team and a team being close to my heart in Toulouse to train against us,” he said.
“I know Toulouse are a good team and they play well, so that was the first thing to get the intensity in that we need to play well on Sunday,” he added.
– ‘We want to be world champions’ –
The visitors are yet to play a competitive fixture this season while the Warriors have lost to St Helens and beat Leeds so far in their campaign ahead of Sunday’s match.
The Roosters’ NRL defence begins on March 15 against Sam Burgess’ South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Robinson says Wigan have the upper hand due to their schedule going into the weekend match at the DW Stadium.
“We want to be world champions and we want to prepare for a long season in the NRL,” he said.
“That dictates that we can’t play a trial game before we got here because that’s way too early in our preparation.
“There’s no doubt it’s an advantage to play those games but it’s no excuse for us either,” he added.
The 41-year-old will be without last season’s top points scorer in Latrell Mitchell who is featuring in Friday’s All Stars match for the Indigenous All Stars in Melbourne.
“It would have been nice to have him here but he’s playing for his indigenous culture and representing his culture in playing in that game which is really good,” Robinson said.
“It gives us an opportunity to another player to come in and us to see some different combinations,” he added.
Source : AFP
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