Saints to tweak halves to play to their strengths

Paul Wellens - may slot in at scrum half

Paul Wellens - may slot in at scrum half

First published in Sport
Last updated
St Helens Star: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Sports Writer

SAINTS boss Nathan Brown has used the weekend off to adjust the team’s strategy of coping with the absence of their key half backs for the season run-in.

After the previous loss at Hull, Brown has looked again at the role of the halves as the team cope with the loss of key pivots Luke Walsh, Lance Hohaia, Jon Wilkin and Jonny Lomax.

Although he would not spell out how it would change from the Gary Wheeler and Jordan Turner formation used in the last outing, it could mean that he puts a steady hand at the number seven tiller and allow Gary Wheeler to play his natural game at six.

With Lance Hohaia potentially due back for the Leeds game at the end of the month, it means that Saints could opt to temporarily move Paul Wellens up to scrum half and draft in Shannon McDonnell at full back.

Brown said: “Our game is designed around the players that are not playing any more and their skillset is very different to the people we have playing in those positions now.

“We have had a look at how we play and the time off has given us that opportunity to train and practise.”

The injuries came at an unfortunate time, after the transfer deadline had closed, meaning that there was no chance of bringing in a player on loan.

“The window has closed — so there is no scope to bring people in so we are working with what we have got.

“With what we have put in place we now feel more comfortable going into the Wakefield game on Friday than we did the Hull game.

“We were basically asking people, who are different types of players to perform like those they had replaced in those key positions.

“We had to look at a number of things at six and seven and are trying to lighten the workload on the people in those key positions and try to share the responsibilities.

“If we do that and get a bit more confidence and get 17 blokes to buy into it then we don’t know where that may take us,” Brown said.

The defeat at Hull was disappointing, and although Leeds’ slip to Bradford kept Saints on top spot, it is now very tight with Wigan in particular scenting blood.

Brown took on some of the responsibility for that performance, but believes the last fortnight has helped them address some issues.

“At Hull we played like a team that was on the way out and that is as much the staff’s fault as it was the players.

“In the short term we could do nothing different — it has just been an unfortunate run of injuries to four players in such key positions.

“The key for us to move forward is to put a style of play in place that suits the team and the players we have got in those positions.

“That is a challenge for the coaching staff and the playing group, and although we have made some adjustments to help us we need 17 blokes to buy into it and crack on together,” Brown said.

On the issue of halves, Brown spelled out the reasons why he has yet to elevate under-19s scrum half Dave Hewitt to the first team panel.

Although he not ruled out him featuring before the year is out, he wants to make sure the fledgling seven is physically prepared for the intense rigours of the business end of the season before doing anything hasty.

“Dave has been doing a fair bit of training with us this past six weeks and he is definitely a talented young player and we have high hopes for him.

“But when you get a situation like this you can’t just put him in the first team because we have to – it is whether they are ready.

“Dave is progressing really, really well and is definitely going to be a Super League player. Obviously we would want someone ready now to put in there.

We also have to be careful of damaging his development by pitching him in too soon.

“That does not mean we won’t play Dave this year and we will keep monitoring him and he has improved a lot in the Under 19s and when he trains with the first team, he feels very comfortable.

“We will keep ticking over with what we are working with – we are not going to throw Dave in if he is physically not capable at this stage.

“We are not saying he is or he isn’t – but we are not going to put him in for the sake of it to scratch an itch,” Brown said.

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