JAMES Bell says joining St Helens is the chance he has been waiting for throughout his rugby league career.

The 27-year-old back rower is now confirmed as a Saints player for the next two seasons.

He spent 2021 in the top flight with relegated Leigh Centurions and was one of their top performers during their difficult campaign, playing 18 times, scoring one try with five assists.

St Helens Star:

Picture: SWpix.com

Prior to joining Super League, Bell made two NRL appearances for New Zealand Warriors in 2017 before spending two years in France with Toulouse Olympique, where he made 27 appearances in the lower level scoring 10 tries.

“I couldn’t believe it when my manager put the contract in my emails," said Bell, a Scotland international who was born in Auckland, New Zealand.

"This has been the opportunity I have been waiting my whole career for. Joining the Super League this year, clearly St Helens are the team to beat and I hold them in high regard.

“I can’t wait to rip in, join a winning culture and a great system and I feel it will take my personal game to the next level. I really can’t wait.”

St Helens Star:

It has been a long journey for Bell to become a regular in a top-flight team on either side of the world, as he has been this year with Leigh.

He played in the New Zealand Warriors' 2014 NYC Grand Final win over Brisbane Broncos.

A year later he graduated to the Warriors' New South Wales Cup team and in 2016 he was named the side's man of the year while he also captained the New Zealand Māori rugby league team.

But Saints head coach Kristian Woolf believes the time is right to give Bell his big break with a top-flight club that is in continual pursuit of the game's top honours.

“Whenever we have played Leigh, James has made himself noticed through his physicality," said Woolf.

"The way he wants to get up and out of the line and have an impact on the game. He is a player with a great work ethic.

“He also has an outstanding skill set that will suit how we want to play. We found him difficult to defend against, particularly with his short passing game and his ability to play right into the line and play out of the back.

“I also love his versatility. He can play that 13 role, on the edge if needed and he has also jumped in at nine, so he is going to offer us some great depth and competition across a number of starting spots.”

Bell has played for Scotland on five occasions, including in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.