SAINTS boss Kristian Woolf reflected on this week’s rugby league matters with the Star’s Mike Critchley.

MC: A fair bit of disruption last week, when did you resume normal training?

KW: I walked in on gameday and that was my first face-to-face contact with players or staff. The rest of the staff were back the day before for the captain’s run.

There was not a lot of normality last week at all. I need to give the playing group a real wrap there because it was a really disruptive week that tossed up different challenges to what we face usually.

The players took charge of themselves. They trained at the intensity and with the quality we expected and took on all the information we were able to provide over Zoom.

They did a really professional job.

St Helens Star:

MC: Did any key players step up in particular or was it a whole collective effort?

KW: It was a collective effort – and the leadership group took the chance to take a bit more ownership of what we do and how training runs.

So in a lot of ways it was really positive for us as a group and for those guys as leaders. We wanted the whole group to buy into it and they did.

St Helens Star:

MC: Covid continues to be a cloud over the game?

KW: It will affect other teams and it will affect us again in some way – but we do need to crack on deal with it. All the processes that we put in place around training and how we function, so that the next time something happens, it will have as little impact as possible.

The way it happened a couple of weeks ago meant that it had a fair impact on our staff.

Everyone wants to finish the season and all want the competition to have some integrity.

That means we will have obstacles and at times we will have to play games. Like Castleford, that we were not scheduled to play.

It also means that sometimes we will have to play on dates we were not expecting. We need to roll with that and expect the unexpected.

St Helens Star:

MC: In the game itself, Rovers were able to slow it down and stop the Saints momentum. How can you deal with that better?

KW: It did get frustrating at different times. It was really hard to get on a roll and there was a fair bit going on in the ruck which made it really difficult to get any sort of roll with the ball. That can be frustrating, but that was what the six again rule was designed to stop.

But in different games at different times it still happens a fair bit.

St Helens Star:

It can be frustrating and that was a bit of a learn from us to make sure we don’t allow those things to frustrate us going forward.

We know we were not quite at our best as a result of those things.

But the strength of the group meant we were still able to come up with a good enough performance that meant that we were always going to win.

MC: James Roby showed his class and versatility at number 7.

KW: I thought he did a really good job. He was challenged a fair bit defensively and came up with some really good plays.

He actually did a great job with the ball in terms of playing nice and simple, and like a half.

St Helens Star:

He set up a good try where he came out the back and threw a nice cut-out pass to Jack Welsby and then set another one up by playing nice and direct and created space for Kevin Naiqama.

It is good to have that, because at some stage down the track we could have other dramas – so to know that he can step into that role and do such a good job is really comforting.

MC: It gave you chance to see Aaron Smith play longer minutes. How did you think he went?

KW: He did a good job. We have been wanting to get him more minutes and match fitness because he sits there and comes on for the last 30 minutes to give Robes a bit of a break.

St Helens Star:

We have been planning to do that for a while but at the weekend it was forced on us. He will be better for that.

St Helens Star:

MC: With Zeb Taia not fit, presumably Dom Peyroux gets his starting shirt back?

KW: Dom is our other edge back rower. I was really happy with what he did for a bloke who had been out for a long while, if you take in the Covid period.

He has not trained with the full squad a lot due to niggling injuries.

St Helens Star:

He brought a really good energy to us and defended strongly and offered us something with the ball, which is what is game is based around and what he does best.

What I liked most was the desperation he showed a couple of times to pounce on loose balls and clean things up for us at times. I was happy with what he did, but he will get better with more game time – and he will get another opportunity this week.

MC: Looks like there will be a bit more experience missing this week?

KW: It is going to be a real squad performance this year and we are going to have to use the entire squad and at different times we are going to have to play and back young blokes and get a result with them.

St Helens Star:

We haven’t put the same team out two weeks in a row this year – and that goes right back before Covid as well.

We are getting plenty of rotation out there through necessity but what that does mean is that at some stage down the track when we are back at full strength we will have had some young blokes who will have had good experience out of it and that is a real positive.

MC: With Theo's knee being as it is, is Lewis Dodd on standby even more this week than others?

KW: He is on standby every week. He is a bloke we have enormous trust and respect in. We know that when he gets his opportunity he is going to do a really good job. He will be on standby provided Theo continues to improve like he has

MC: Has there been any update on how Mark Percival is progressing?

KW: Mark is coming along really well. He won’t quite be right for this week. He will train this week and we will get a better gauge. But he is not too far away and he has done a really good job in terms of his rehab.

St Helens Star:

He has a chance for next week, but we are not going to take any unnecessary risks with him.

He was the player, with James Bentley, we missed most earlier in the year.

But we won’t take risks – we need him back on the field and playing the rest of the year because he is too important a player. He is not too far away.