SAINTS coach Kristian Woolf reflected on Joe Batchelor’s elevation to the England team, talked about Leeds rivalry, the big month ahead against Super League’s top four and how the cloud of injuries and suspensions have had one silver lining.

MC: What sort of message does a late developer like Joe Batchelor’s progress to England send?

KW: It is a great message. Quite often the pathway for a really good young player comes through scholarships and academy. It means a lot of players can skip playing Championship and Reserve grade – and the really talented players do that and we have a couple like that in our group.

But what Joe Batch reminds everyone that you don’t have to be that to make it to the top or to get international honours. He has certainly come down a different path, in some ways a harder path – a probably a path that makes you appreciate what you have got and the opportunities that come your way.

That is what I see in Joe all the time. He is a terrific bloke who is great around our group.

He works his butt off with everything he does, whether that is training, the gym or on the field. He is very diligent.

That is the best example he can give to any young player coming through; you don’t have to be the most talented, the biggest or most dynamic if you are going to put yourself in a position where you are going to work harder than other people then you will get rewarded for that.

That is what Joe has done.

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MC: Does the club get credit for that spotting and perseverance or is it all on the player?

KW: The club has done a great job in developing players of all ages. We have seen that with Lewis Dodd and Jack Welsby – but also with players who have taken different pathways, like Alex Walmsley, James Bentley -when he was here – and now Joe.

There’s a number of ways you can make it there and the club plays its part, but at the end of the day the person who has got to do the hard work and make the choices and sacrifices is the player.

That is what Joe has done – we have given him the environment to do it.

MC: This week you have James Bell joining Sione Mata’utia on the suspended list – it must be frustrating to keep picking these up?

KW: It has been frustrating and we are a little bit more disjointed in that department this year than we have in the last couple.

But we have also been able to get through it and get some wins.

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That is a real good sign of the squad overall. We have had a lot of chop-and-change this past nine or ten weeks and most players in our best 17 have had periods off at some stage, mostly for two to three weeks but some obviously longer.

To be able to get through that and not lose too much momentum or many games along the way and keep the table ticking over with points has been great for us.

At some stage it will settle down and we will stop getting the little niggles and the suspensions and get a bit of continuity there.

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MC: One plus is that it gives opportunities to have a good look at players like Jake Wingfield?

KW: It does and I have sung his praises plenty of times. With a run of games in our team he is going to get better and better, show his worth and make it hard for me to leave him out.

James Bell has done that over the course of the year. We get Curtis Sironen back this week – and he too has been getting better with more games.

Guys on the fringe like Dan Norman, Ben Davies and Jon Bennison have had food opportunities and are developing and becoming first graders.

So there is a positive to it – the squad gets stronger every time we give those guys an opportunity, but at the same time it would be good to get some continuity with the same 17.

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MC: No matter where Leeds are on the table – the game with Saints remains a big fixture.

KW: It is not quite the close rivalry of a Wigan or Warrington but there’s a strong history there, particularly with Grand Finals and us not being on the winning side for those.

When you have that, with two big clubs and proud clubs, you will have an intense rivalry.

We know Leeds will come and see this as a game that they can make a bit of a statement in. We are going to go into it excited about the contest.

We view Leeds as a side that should be in the top six – they have that sort of quality and can play at that sort of standard. We know we are going to have to be at our best and if we are then we are going to be hard to beat.

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MC: It is a massive period for Saints – Leeds followed by games against Super League's top four clubs Catalans, Wigan and Huddersfield?

KW: It is a great month ahead for us and in the middle of the year you want those sorts of games.

You want games that excite you, big games that are a real challenge.

That is what we have got this month and it starts this Thursday with Leeds. We are not looking past this week as we know it is going to be a real challenge but once we get through that we have other games that will excite us.