PAUL Wellens believes Saints still have a great chance of being successful this season despite key personnel being on the sidelines.
The 34-year-old says the players have been working hard in training over the last few weeks to compensate for the loss – and will head into Friday’s clash with Leeds confident.
“Not being in the cup has been good for us but of course would have liked to have been there,” he said. “We’ve been working on combinations and other things on the training field to make us successful.
“Losing Luke Walsh, Jon Wilkin and Jonny Lomax has meant we’ve had to come up with different systems and against Wakefield it seemed to work well. It wasn’t perfect but it has given us something to hang our hat on.
“It’s been like a mini pre-season for us. We’ve had a lot to cram into a two to three week period but needs must. What is evident around the group is that the boys have taken to it well and hopefully we can put it together on Friday night.”
Saints face the newly crowned Challenge Cup holders at Headingley on Friday night in what is sure to be a party-like atmosphere for the Rhinos.
“I always enjoyed the challenge of backing up after a cup final.” Wellens added. “They will be on a high. If you look at Leeds’ squad and why they have been successful it is because they work hard for each other and have experience.
“Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield and the unsung players such as Jamie Jones-Buchanan know what is required. They will have enjoyed the weekend but there would have been a point when they had to start preparing for us.
“It’s a huge game when you look at the league ladder. No one will have to make them aware of that. It will be an intriguing finish to the season especially with the fixtures that are coming up.
“It’s been a strange season for us. I’ve said a few times we’ve been inconsistent but despite that we are sitting top of the ladder and have a great chance if we tidy up a few things. A win and a good performance against Leeds will take us another step closer.”
Wellens has played in a number of positions this season and is likely to partner the returning Lance Hohaia in the halves on Friday.
It’s a challenge he’s enjoyed: “It’s good to have Lance back. Prior to his injury I thought he was playing the best rugby since he joined us. He is a tricky player to handle and brings a lot of experience that will be invaluable towards the back end of the season.
“I’m feeling pretty good and still enjoying it. I feel I have a lot to offer and I’ve shown that with my performances.
“I have played in a number of positions and have enjoyed the challenge as in a way it has allowed me to showcase what I can do.”