Justin Holbrook has admitted he will play a number of Saints youngsters including Josh Simm, Josh Eaves and Callum Hazzard in Sunday's clash against London Broncos with what he describes as 'our biggest game of the year' - a Coral Challenge Cup Semi Final up next the following week.
Saints lead the Betfred Super League by 10 points having recently come through tough encounters with Warrington, Hull and Wigan.
And with the Challenge Cup semi-final up next following Sunday’s capital clash with London at the Ealing Trailfinders and the majority of Super League club’s having a week off from action, Holbrook admits he must be ‘clever’ with his team selection.
Holbrook insists he will not risk a number of his first team regulars and instead give youth a chance ahead of what he describes is our biggest game of the year against Halifax the week after.
“It is going to be a tough game on Sunday, but we have got to be smart about it. We have had three really tough games playing second, third and fourth. Guys have put so much effort in these last few weeks so we must be smart.
“Obviously last time I made a number of changes and we did not get the result, but I picked a side good enough to win the game and we got beat in golden point so we weren’t far off.
“I am going to make a number of changes again this week off the back of knowing we don’t get a week off. I think there are nine Super League clubs next week who will get a week off, but we are doing well in the Challenge Cup and it is our biggest game of the year. So I will make a number of changes because of those reasons.”
Holbrook revealed Josh Simm, who has impressed on loan at Leigh, will likely start in the centres, whilst the likes of Callum Hazzard who has been on loan at North Wales Crusaders and hooker Josh Eaves, who was part of the same Saints Academy winning side in which Aaron Smith played in, will also likely get a chance from the bench.
“There will definitely be some [debuts] which is exciting and there will be plenty of guys rested, he continued. “Guys like Josh Simm in particular who has gone and played a few games at Leigh. I think those guys have really excelled at Academy and they need that level [at Leigh] and he has been one of their best players so he will debut in the centres for us and young Josh Eaves will probably get a run on the bench and Callum Hazzard as well.
“There will be a few others who have already played a few games, the likes of Joe Batchelor and James Bentley as well as Danny Richardson who will get another game.
“They deserve it, they have trained really hard and it’s a win-win for us. It is a reward to give the experienced guys a week off and give these young guys who are itching to play, an opportunity.
“It is nothing to do with the act that we are playing London or it is on a 4G pitch. We are not going to disrespecting London at all. We all know how hard they work and play it is just the timing of who we play and the timing of it. The fact we have just payed second third and fourth and we have got a Challenge Cup semi and it just happens to be London away and we know we have to be right for the semi.”
Reserve grade rugby is back for 2020 and Holbrook believes that can only benefit our game.
“It is fantastic for rugby league in England and I am glad the Academy is back to U18s. It is too big of a gap the jump from Academy to first team so I think having your best 19 year old’s playing reserves gives them experience with some older players who are just out of your first team and it had to come in. It’s a great decision from the RFL and Super League and I think every club will benefit from it.”