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Browny answers: Salford will present a welcome challenge
SAINTS boss Nathan Brown answers the questions of the Star's senior sports writer Mike Critchley ahead of this evening's game at Salford.
MC: Was Friday a little bit of a wake-up call for the team after that great start at Warrington?
NB: It makes everyone realise what you have to do in a game. You have to knuckle down and work hard in the early parts of the contest to earn the rights to play football. If you go too sideways, too soon, too often you can get yourselves in trouble.
MC: Was that the kind of game Saints would have lost, from that start, last season?
NB: Yes, it is a possibility but we have such different personnel this year. The younger players are more experienced and we have much more power up the middle, plus Walshy helps as well. The contrast between the first half and second half should be a good lesson for us.
MC: Are you looking at the same squad for the Salford game?
NB: It will be the same or similar 17, but there will be a change or two in the 19 because we had five players running out for Rochdale on Sunday and probably the best two performers there will be rewarded with a spot.
The boys that aren’t playing will have to keep playing well for Rochdale.
MC: Is this the first big test for the new-look Salford and the players they have brought in?
NB: Yes, Salford played Wakefield on the back of some blokes just arriving in the country and obviously London are where they are. We would like to think we will test them.
It is good to playing a Salford side that has bought a lot of good players because it would have been no good for TV if it was a fully fit St Helens side against a Salford side that are only spending a small amount of money.
What they have done as a club is great for the game, but they are going to be much tougher to beat.
MC: There are some real characters in that Salford tea, players who can raise their game for Saints?
NB: There are some well-travelled people who have achieved quite a lot in the game in the international front. I have watched the last two games and Francis Meli has been pretty strong for them in the centre, doing exactly what he did for us last year. Franny had a good impact for us both on and off the field and had a good input into the developments of Tommy, Jonesy and Swifty.
I’d imagine young Salford wing Greg Johnson will benefit from that now – and he is a player who can run.
MC: You said you would ease Sia Soliola back in after his World Cup exploits and knee injury, but he is looking pretty dynamic now?
NB: Sia’s game has got better from week-to-week and his performance from the friendly, to Warrington to Hull has improved. He is a player that needs to play footy the more he plays the better he gets. He will continue to do that with the more minutes he plays.
MC: Do you prefer him off the bench?
NB: The reality is that if he gives us another game off the bench and is getting more juice in his legs he gives us options. He can start instead of Louie, or they can both start, we do have options with how we play it and there are numbers of things to look at. But for the first couple of weeks it is a case of getting him playing and giving us a lift.
MC: How important is getting the bench right?
NB: Those players have to bring something to the table when they come on. Over a period of time at the club Big Al has done it and so too has Louie. Sia is definitely a classier player off the bench at the minute.
MC: Are you going to have a headache picking that bench when Mose Masoe is fit?
NB: It is tough at the moment and sometimes you do wonder whether you are picking the best team with Lance there, Mark Flanagan, Greg Richards, Joe Greenwood and Ant Walker is back playing really well again. There are numbers of players who are making me ask have we got the best team out there, but at the moment that team is winning.
MC: Jon Wilkin appears to have settled back into the back row well?
NB: There will be times when Wilko will play in the halves or cover hooker because he can cover numbers of spots. It is just about trying to find the right balance of using him as a back rower but using the skillset that he showed last year.
At the weekend we saw him pass to Percy for a try and kick to Jonny for his score. We don’t want him to be a ball-carrying back rower, we want to try and get the balance between the two.
At the weekend we probably a bit of the fruits of his half back play last year, so when you get the balance right it will be a real benefit for the team.