THE spotlight is well and truly on the University of Bolton Stadium ahead of Saturday’s Challenge Cup semi-final double header – with Saints odds-on favourites to be outright winners.

We are 1/2 with Betfred to lift the trophy at Wembley… which is no great surprise as we’re clearly the best team in the Betfred Super League so far this season and come against mid-table Halifax of the Betfred Championship on Saturday.

And they’re the rank outsiders at a massive 250/1 for Challenge Cup glory.

‘Fax are coming off a 28-28 draw against Dewsbury, so are clearly not in the greatest form, though the same could be said about Saints after their loss on Sunday against bottom club London Broncos… but we know the truth (more of that later)!

The other semi-final sees Hull FC, who have just enjoyed a morale-boosting win over the Leeds Rhinos, face an out-of-sorts Warrington Wolves, who have now suffered four defeats in their last six games.

The Black and Whites are third favourites to lift the cup at 6/1, behind the Wolves who are 9/4.

So, back to last weekend...

Well, the truth is coach Justin Holbrook was smart! With a 10-point lead at the top of the Betfred Super League, the boss decided this was a great opportunity to rest nine senior players, but also to give three up and coming players their debut. This will be a priceless experience for them and their development.

A lot has been made of Saints’ team selection, mainly by the bottom club fans seeing this as a clear opportunity for the Broncos to pick up two points.... but honestly this is not Justin’s problem!

I think a lot of these people want to look a bit closer to home for the situations that their teams find themselves in. Also, in regards to the Saints team, everyone who played was a signed, contracted St Helens RFC player… so why shouldn’t they play?

They have earned the right to make decisions based on the good of the team going forward, and despite the loss it proved a great move, with Warrington missing the opportunity to close the gap as they went down themselves for the second week running to Castleford Tigers.

Now, with only six games left of the regular season, Saints are only one win away from retaining the League Leaders’ Shield for a second year running.

Meanwhile, the race for a top-five finish is becoming more and more intriguing with Wigan, Castleford and Catalans all on 24 points in fourth, fifth and sixth place respectively – and Salford, who did excellently to beat Catalans, are on 22.

That will certainly keep the interest levels going as will the battle to avoid the drop – with London, Hull KR and the Rhinos all bottom on 16 points, just behind Wakefield and Huddersfield on 18.