THE Saints youngsters on the fringes of the first team last year have continued to make good progress in pre-season training.

Although 2020 was was a tough, rugby-starved year for that group of players, with the Academy and Reserve grades halted, along with the opportunities to play on dual-registration, they earned a lot of plaudits for the way they helped the top squad approach.

But there is no shortage of talent and ambition from those young Saints - spread across all positions - and coach Kristian Woolf praised them collectively - and singled out some for special praise.

He said: "Lewis Dodd is still only 18 but into his second full pre-season now.

"Last year he was finding his way and this year he is a lot more confident and knows what it’s about.

"Jack Welsby and Josh Simm are the same in that regard."

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Packman Jake Wingfield's inclusions in Woolf's 21-man squads were a reward for his hard work and determination in battling back from an ACL injury that took more than a year of rugby from him.

The 19-year-old back row was the latest of a cluster of former Blackbrook juniors to poke their way into the first team panel having been nurtured through Saints' Academy.

His attitude, athleticism and skillset have impressed the Saints boss - and his graduation into the match day panel was proof of that.

"Jake Wingfield has had a really tough year or so, and missed something like 15 months of football. I gave him a wrap about how he handled that whole situation and thought he was really good against Salford.

"He featured in our 21 a number of times without playing more games. He is a guy who has come back really well and have been really impressed with him and will expect him to play some more footy this year," Woolf said.

Although not a youngster, 26-year-old Joe Batchelor will be pushing to add to the eight appearances he has made since joining from York at the start of the 2019 campaign.

"He works very hard in training and is really professional and has given himself a good chance off the back of that," he said.

There was also special praise for 19-year-old second-row forward Matty Foster, who has progressed through the scholarship programme, having represented England at U16s level.

The former Blackbrook junior made his debut off the bench against Salford last year.

Woolf said: "He has done a terrific job and really come back in and done everything he could in the off season to make sure hat he gives himself a chance in pre-season.

"He has worked really hard to improve his game and I have been impressed with what he has been doing so far."