THE Star’s Mike Critchley caught up with Saints coach Justin Holbrook at the training ground this week to get his thoughts on Widnes, man management Ben Barba and the improvement of Catalans Dragons.

MC: Teams are usually on a bit of a hiding to nothing, playing the team at the bottom, how did you think it went?

JH: I thought the players were fantastic. Where they sit on the table some might say that was expected, but I think that was the best we have played for about a month.

I thought every part of our game was great for the full 80 minutes. I don’t want to downplay that win – Widnes sit where they sit, but we were fantastic in every area of our game and was pleasing to watch.

MC: Having had to swap a fair chunk of the spine you must have been pleased with the response.

JH: Jonny Lomax deserves a lot of credit; he has been playing fantastically well now for six or seven week and in our top three players every week.

It was good to get Theo a run in the halves; he is a great little player who has been playing everywhere for us, halves is his preferred position and he did a good job.

And Swifty came in and played like that.

On international weekend we all had as week off but he wanted to get another game in for Sheffield and did that. It is great for a coach to be able to reward blokes like that and give them a run, and for them to respond by playing so well.

To continue on the way we have been playing without those players was great to watch.

MC: Is that a test of man management to ensure players on the fringes of the squad have the right attitude when overlooked?

JH: I said at start of the year, it is the hardest part for a coach to leave good players out of a team. That is the part you enjoy the least.

But the flip side is that the attitude of those players is up to them and everyone has been fantastic.

Those who have not been in the side have just cracked on and trained the best they can.

The standards they have set for themselves have been tremendous – nobody wants to let anybody down whether they are in the 17 or not.

The quality of the training remains high and everyone is doing a good job of keeping everyone upbeat. It is hard, but credit to the boys for conducting themselves well.

MC: You have had it in your halves and then similar on the wing. How does it work in training when there is competition for spots, but also co-operation?

JH: They are in competition but they are helping each other.

And doing the best they can.

Matty Smith wants to play – we get that - and is training the best he can in case he gets an opportunity and that is all we can ask.

It hard for them, but that is the way it is.

MC: Six points clear at top or 14 clear for top four – that is a brilliant position to be in. What do you want to do with that cushion?

JH: We just want to continue on because we have put ourselves in a great position.

Every week has been a big game and this week against Hull is no different.

We just want to keep going; we are enjoying training and playing and we just want that to continue – playing the way we are, that is the plan.

MC: There has more less been one of these stories every week, but after another tale in Australia has anything changed with Ben Barba?

JH: Nothing has changed. It is a constant discussion topic. It will be great to get him back on the field this week. He is hopefully over that knee issue and he can back to doing what he does best – playing great for us.

It will be great to have him back.

MC: Your eyes will be on three tough league games, but are Catalans looking a different cup semi-final proposition now?

JH: Everyone said at he start of they ear that Catalan had the players to play well, but they just were not doing it.

If you look at their sides it was as good as most teams, whether it has taken the established half in Josh Drinkwater to steer the ship, or Kenny Edwards has come in late and he is a real handful.

Those two have added something, and now the rest of them are hitting some form.

They were never a bottom four side for me – on paper they are a really strong side and playing to their potential now, whereas in the first half of the year they were not.

MC: Three tough league games in the run up, is that good?

JH: All games are hard, doesn’t matter where they sit. As a player want to play in those games – the hardest ones are the games you are expected to win so that will be a good preparation for us.

MC: What have you made of the World Cup and England's performance so far?

JH: It has been fantastic – I would love to see an England v France final, the French are a fantastic team to watch.

I’d love to see England win – it is a good time to be in the country, and we have even got the sunshine too.