SAINTS coach Justin Holbrook looked ahead to the Warrington game when the Star’s Mike Critchley caught up with him.

MC: What are you thinking in terms of Zeb Taia’s replacement?

JH: One of Morgan Knowles or Joseph Paulo. Morgan played back row the other week when Dom had a rest the other week and was great. Joseph has played loads of it through his career – so one will play 13 and the other second row. Louie can come on and cover both.

St Helens Star:

It was good news really in the end with Zeb as it could have been worse. It is just a case of rehab it up and six weeks he will be right. If we win that semi-final then he would have a couple of games under his belt before the Wembley, which is important.

MC: In that six weeks do the likes of Joe Batchelor or James Bentley get a sniff at second row, or do you want to keep it nice and consistent?

JH: They are both more than capable of playing there, but I think the other guys – Morgan, Joseph and Louie – are all ahead of them. But I have no hesitation in either of those playing back row.

St Helens Star:

MC: James Bentley has given you two energetic shifts off the bench at nine – could you see him covering that role more, or do you prefer a specialist nine ideally filling that?

JH: I don’t see James as a specialist number nine but he is definitely someone who can play there, so the luxury of him is that he is someone who is quite versatile.

He can play nine, back row and fill in at centre and he defends really well no matter where you put him. His versatility has probably got him a spot on the bench.

St Helens Star:

MC: What is the update on Mark Percival?

JH: Hopefully he has a chance of playing. We thought it was his hamstring, but it is just a bit of nerve pinching around there so it is not as bad as we thought.

We got him off at Leeds as a precaution – but he has a good chance of playing.

We will take the advice of the medical team, but if there is a chance of him doing any further damage then we are not going to risk him.

We will see how he goes running wise over the next two days and if he is still the same as last week then we won’t play him, but if he is better then he will play.

If he does not play then Matty Costello has done a great job for us all the time he has featured.

St Helens Star:

MC: There is still a long way to go in this season, but you can put clear blue water between first and second on Friday night.

JH: You are right on both fronts, as of now we have 10 rounds to go that is one third of the season and if we are good enough to win on Friday that will put us eight points clear with nine games to go. That is still a lot of games, but a great position to be in.

St Helens Star:

MC: This fixture appears to be growing in rivalry.

JH: The fact that we are siting first and second adds to that, they are second behind Wigan in terms of pushing up as rivals.

The build up before the last time we played was similar – after nine games - and we were good enough then. But now we still sit first and second – it is a great game and one we are looking forward to.

What they have done in terms of marketing is great. The way boxers carry on is all to do with getting more interest in their bout and I think what they did with the plane was a great initiative and that will hopefully draw more attention to the game.

They do things well in that area and there is probably no other mascot in the league that has a qualified pilot’s licence.

I think that is good for the game.

St Helens Star:

MC: When Saints won last time it burst Warrington’s bubble – but everyone expected them to pick up and then start getting better, but they have been patchy.

JH: I would agree but don’t expect to see that on Friday night. When we look at our own team people can be quite critical of one or two performances, and I shake my head at it sometimes and think ‘do you know how hard it is to play at your absolute best for 29 weeks?’ It is impossible.

But when you get to games like this I am going to discount Warrington losing at Hull KR and at home to Salford. Those games can happen over long seasons but I don’t envisage that happening on Friday.

I will prepare us to play a side at their best and forget when they have played poorly because all that does it put you in a false sense of where you are travelling and where they are.

MC: Wigan can always time their run in Super League – and on their day Hull can be a very good side, but do expect Saints v Warrington to be in the big decisive games this year?

JH: It could be – but as you say, Hull on their day are great and Wigan are building. There are other sides who are capable. For us it is not about not getting too worried about that and just keep looking at our selves and what we do as a club. We have a massive test at Warrington on Friday and not worry about the other sides.

St Helens Star:

MC: Friday will be a big test of the pack, but you fancy your boys?

JH: Definitely, they are a very strong side and we know that – but we played them 10 weeks ago and I thought our boys handled it really well but that is only going to give them More incentive going into this game. We have to raise our levels again.

The two packs have been outstanding.

MC: This is a first return to Halliwell Jones for Big Al, what can you say about him?

JH: He’s been fantastic from the start of the year – one of the best front rowers.

Read: Interview with Big Al>

He worked really hard in all of his rehab and we are seeing that this year, in particular when we did not have Tommo for those five or six weeks and he stepped up, Matty Lees lifted too – but all of our forwards are playing well – but Al in particular is one of the leaders of the competition, and it is great to see him back playing so well.

St Helens Star:

MC: To have a player like Tommy Makinson with that finishing prowess should be a magnet to pull people into this game.

JH: He has got to be the best finisher in rugby league. He did it the other week as well.

He is just a fantastic player for rugby league. Some wingers are good at that stuff but cannot do the hard yards.

Tommy is probably better at doing the hard yards. To be the best finisher and the best at getting your team out of trouble, justifies him winning the Golden Boot. He is strong, brave with a big heart and they outweigh his natural stature. He is fantastic.

St Helens Star:

MC: There has been a bit of speculation about Danny Richardson leaving – inevitable after Theo signed on again. Can you tell us anything?

JH: He is a great young player and I would like him to stay but I can understand him if he is not getting to play enough after the year he had last year. I can understand his frustration at not playing.

I don’t expect him to sit back and be happy at playing half a dozen games.