KC To Hand Cup Debuts

KEIRON Cunningham says he is likely to hand two players their debuts when Saints get their Ladbrokes Challenge Cup campaign underway.

His side take on York City Knights in the sixth round of the competition at Langtree Park on Friday.

Whilst tight-lipped on who the duo will be – he does indicate they are ‘stand out performers’ for the Under 19s.

“There will be some younger players in the side this week and a couple who will make their debut,” Keiron confirmed. “They have been the best in the 19s and we want to have a look at them. I’ve always said if the kids are going well, training hard and doing the right things on and off the pitch then they will get a chance.

“I won’t be making wholesale changes. There are players who aren’t in good form here too and I think to rest more than I have to would be a hindrance to them. They need to find some form but there will be some players rested who have played big minutes.

“We certainly need to be ready to play on Friday as York will be coming here to play. Playing against an unknown can be a little fearful as you don’t know what is coming. We can’t do a lot of video on them for example.

“It is a massive spectacle for York, coming here to Langtree Park and it will be a great day for them. They will play differently to what they usually do and will challenge our players.

“We need to put in a professional performance. I expect that from them.”

Definitely out of the clash are long-term injured Jonny Lomax, Atelea Vea and Joe Greenwood alongside Matty Dawson and Paul Wellens.

Saints also lost Luke Walsh this week for the next month or so.

“He had surgery on his ankle on Monday,” Keiron continued. “It was a minor clean out; we thought we could get through until the end of the season with it but it was uncomfortable for him. He will be out for a few weeks and then we will have him back for the remainder of the season.

“The fracture site is fine and he has taken some significant knocks on it in the last few weeks. That is good for his confidence. He has come through quite a trauma so for something as little as a grumbling ankle (to knock him back) is disappointing for him.

“I want him to feel good and go into games with confidence so hopefully in four or five weeks he will be back.

“He has shown how important he is to the club. The combination with him, Travis (Burns) and Wilko (Jon Wilkin) has been sensational and has allowed us to attack across the park. I’m excited at what we can do in the run in.”

Saints begin a tricky block of fixtures with this Friday’s Challenge Cup tie before trips to Hull FC and the Magic event at Newcastle.

They then face Salford and Wigan at home respectively.

“It is a big month for us. We needed to get off to a good start in the league, which we did, but we have been up and down of late and unfortunate in some games too.

“Take Catalan for instance, I was speechless after that game with the performance of a certain individual in the middle.

“I spoke to Jon Sharp about it and said if any of my players had a bearing on a game – if they caused injury – then they would be held responsible. There were 19 penalties in the game; Catalan gave away six but three of those were for backchat. Therefore, they gave away three penalties in the whole game. Everyone who watched the match would be frustrated with that as I was.

“We still should have won the game even though I thought we got the rough end of it. At 26-26 we were in control but opted to do a reverse kick which basically cost us the game. I felt we were in control of it after the first 20 minutes too and I was never worried that we were going to lose.

“But I have never seen a season that has become more about the officials as this one. They have become the talking point of the game and all coaches are saying that.

“We stopped the game on Saturday for a player to have his wrist strapped. We also had a good carry and on the next play Elima is on the floor wih a banged sternum and the game is stopped for around 80 seconds.

“We should score that set but this is what Catalan do – we get a quick ruck and they will lay on the floor. The rules say the game can only be stopped with a head injury.

“I’m not putting the entire onus on the referees. There were certain areas of the game where we could have done a lot better. But when you build pressure and then the calls go against you then that is tough for a team.

“It is 100 per cent a tactic from them but it is the referee’s fault for allowing it. They are in control of the game.

“Every time we built pressure we scored and that moment was a turning point for us. Elima goes down after a strong carry from Alex Walmsley – which the referee thought was sufficient enough for him to stop the game – he then gets his mic fixed and effectively we have one attacking play left and they have set their line.

“I vent this to them every week (The RFL) and it gets to a point where we may just have to run with the wolves.

“I think it is backing coaches into a corner. I am massive for player welfare and I cannot and will not coach my players to intentionally go out and hurt people. But when I see other teams doing that and gain an advantage then perhaps you have to run with the wolves.

“If teams are getting an advantage lying down and slowing the game down then I will ask my players to do the same.”

Adults can gain entry in the Hatton’s Solicitors West Stand for just £10 on Friday. Tickets are on sale now from the Ticket Office at Langtree Park, by calling 01744 455 052 or online here.

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