SAINTS will head out on a training camp to North Wales next week as they step up their preparations for the Super League 2018 opener against Castleford Tigers.

Justin Holbrook will use the trip to strengthen his squad’s stamina and focus their minds ahead of the countdown to the new season.

Following the camp the coach will get his fist look at the players on the field in a friendly against Sheffield at home on Saturday, January 20 (3pm kick-off). A further warm-up game is scheduled on Friday, January 26 against Leigh.

The friendlies may offer an insight into who Holbrook’s first choice half-back pairing will be. With Ben Barba expected to nail down the full back jersey, it is likely to leave Jonnny Lomax, Matty Smith, Danny Richardson and Theo Fages competing for spots in the halves.

Meanwhile, Castleford – Saints’ opponents on Friday, February 2 - head coach Daryl Powell has his own half back posers. Powell intends to switch last year’s regular stand-off Ben Roberts to full-back.

That is a move to compensate for the loss of former England international Zak Hardaker, who is not in the Yorkshire outfit’s plans for 2018 as he awaits his fate over a failed drugs test.

Former Saints academy product Jamie Ellis, who has returned to the Tigers from Hull FC, is the man expected to be favourite to partner England scrum half Luke Gale but he has collected an injury.

Powell may decide to stick with Roberts in the halves for the opener at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday, February 2, which could mean switching prolific try-scoring winger Greg Eden to the number one role, but it’s not an ideal situation.

Ellis got injured in training on Tuesday, but Powell says he has another option in promising youngster Jake Trueman, who could now leapfrog the ex-Saints man in the pecking order for the stand-off shirt.