St Helens ready to kick on after ‘back to front’ start to the year

·3-min read
Jack Welsby Credit: Alamy
Jack Welsby Credit: Alamy

Champions St Helens return to Super League action with a tough trip to Catalans on Friday, but Jack Welsby believes they’re ready to kick on from a tough start.

Their preparations for 2023 were spent in Australia and focused on the World Club Challenge, which they duly won in dramatic circumstances, beating NRL champions Penrith Panthers after golden point extra time.

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The effort put in to that success has seen them nurse something of a hangover since, and they had lost four of their eight Super League games on their return before the 28-6 win at home to Warrington prior to the international break.

A number of injuries has hit Paul Wellens’ squad, and meant that Welsby was the only Saints player available to feature for England against France.

He is now hoping that the win over Warrington, and the subsequent break from club duty, can help the champions kick on towards five in a row.

Welsby said: “It was massive (to win that match), especially against a Warrington side that has been going really well.

“We’ve had a strange old start to the year, it’s almost back to front really with the World Club Challenge being such a big game for us and so much build up and then coming back and we hit a slump and got a load of injuries off the back of that and I’m not making excuses as we weren’t good enough in a lot of the games that we lost.

“But the Warrington win was a big marker for our season and shows we’re still capable of it and with a lot of bodies coming back soon and I’m sure we’ll hit a good patch now and hopefully kick on.”

Re-energising St Helens

Key men Tommy Makinson and Mark Percival have been on the sidelines in recent weeks, joining the likes of Alex Walmsley, who pulled up with a hamstring injury in the win over Wakefield. Morgan Knowles is also still missing through suspension.

Wellens emphasised the opportunity to re-energise his squad in the two week gap between games for his side.

He told St Helens Star: “We were all in need of a bit of a break after a different start to the year and I think it will be well received by everybody involved.

“It is a great opportunity for us to be energised and come back with the bit between our teeth.”

After the trip to France, St Helens welcome Salford to the Totally Wicked Stadium on May 13 before the trip to Halifax in the Challenge Cup. They then head to Headingley to face Leeds on May 26 as part of a double-header with the Women’s Super League.

England coach Shaun Wane was also pragmatic about the situation surrounding the St Helens players, and pointed to his relationship and respect with Wellens, who was part of the national team set up at the World Cup.

Speaking ahead of the international match, Wane said: “Paul Wellens is an England man. He’s worked with me, he knows me really well. They’ve had a tough start with the travel and I know they are injured.”

Welsby played the full 80 minutes as England breezed past France, who are coached by St Helens assistant Laurent Frayssinous, 64-0 at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Saturday.

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