SAINTS coach Nathan Brown rates James Roby among the best number nines in the world – a match for NRL greats Cameron Smith and Robbie Farah.

Brown, a fully paid up member of the hookers union from his days at St George, has always been impressed with what Roby brings to the team from the first minute to the last.

However, that is not to say the new boss could tweak the role the non-stop 80 minute England number nine plays every week.

Brown said: “The best hookers are 80 minute players – Robes is obviously one of best players in the world in his position.

“He is the best hooker in this country and on a par with a couple in Australia – Cameron Smith and Robbie Farah, even if he plays a little differently to them.

“All those players play 80 minutes. Does he have to play 80 minutes every week? Well, he doesn’t have to, even though he’d like to and enjoys doing it.

“Where and how we use him could be guided by the game. When you have that good of a player having him on the field is a bonus and there is no need to take him off unless there was game is done and dusted.”

The last time Saints were dominant in Super League, they did so off the back of operating a split shift between hookers Keiron Cunningham and Roby.

However, since Cunningham retired, Roby has turned the number nine position into a full time job.

Saints do have options should the new boss decide to mix things up, with Lance Hohaia playing test football as an interchange hooker.

Brown said: “When Keiron retired he had been number one English hooker for many years and St Helens replaced him with Robes who is number one hooker now.

“Some of the traits Robes brings can help the team do what it has done for a period of time, but it is about adding to that now and using different players, slightly differently at times.

“It takes a lot of work and when you are doing something like that you need to get the buy-in and belief of the players but I guess that is the art of coaching.

“The personnel that are here have taken the club very close. We are hopeful as a staff we can get the players to buy into new ideas and keep doing what they are good at, individually improve and see where that takes us.”