SAINTS skipper James Roby underwent surgery on a troublesome groin injury on Tuesday and will be out for four weeks or so as he recovers.

They had tried to delay the operation until the end of the year, but it was beginning to impact on his playing.

In his absence Aaron Smith will step up to the hooking role.

Coach Justin Holbrook said: “He has had it more or less since the start of the year and it has been grumbling away.

“We had been looking to see if we could push it till the end of the year to see if we could get it fixed, but we were not going to get that far and it started to be something that hurt for a day or two, to something that would linger around for five or six games going into the next game.

“It was getting to a stage where the pain threshold was too much - which seems unthinkable for Robes - and it was going to affect his performance later in the year so it is the right time to get it done now.”

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Saints have spelled Roby a lot this year already, allowing Smith to gain valuable experience.

Holbrook has faith in the young rake to step it up in the skipper’s absence.

“Whether Aaron Smith can play 80 minutes depends how the games goes, but there are not many James Robys running around.

“We have the luxury of being able to put Morgan Knowles there and James Bentley has played a bit of nine too,” he said.

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