THE Star’s Mike Critchley profiles the squad Saints supporters hope will bring the Challenge Cup back to St Helens for the first time since 2008.

Lachlan Coote

“He’s the reason, we’re top of the league this season….” What an inspired signing.

The 29-year-old joined as a replacement for the dazzling Ben Barba and has put his own mark on the team. His defence is first class, whether that is tackling or scooping up the wickedest of grubbers – and much of that is down to a remarkable sixth sense with his positional play.

With the ball he has a fine left foot kicking game and knows how to chime in and throw the right pass.

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But another major plus has been the way Coote complements the rest of the team – not just “setting up Tommy and Regan”, but his understanding with Jonny Lomax. On top of that, he has been chipping over the goals, too.

Although he has been missing with a knee injury since the Wigan game, Justin Holbrook has no qualms about throwing him straight back in.

Tommy Makinson

Current Golden Boot, the award given to the international player of the year, Makinson goes from strength to strength.

He catches the eye with his spectacular one-handed finishes in the tightest of corners.

However, equally as important has been the hard graft the former Wigan St Judes youngster does in clearing the line and starting the sets.

The 27-year-old flankman, who runs well above his weight and improves year on year, has already crossed the line 20 times this year.

Kevin Naiqama

The Fiji World Cup skipper has shown real flashes of pace and power near the line.

With stars across the Saints backline it is hard to jump out, but the 30-year-old former Wests Tigers centre, who marked his debut with a try against Wigan, has added quality to that right edge.

Mark Percival.

The England international centre was singled out for particular praise from coach Justin Holbrook in the Challenge Cup semi-final win over Halifax.

Not afraid to come looking for work to clear the line and an player who hits hard in defence, Percival is a potent finisher when slicing through inside.

Regan Grace

Grace has a commodity that cannot be bought…..pace to burn.

A deadly finisher close to the line and in tight corners, the Welsh flyer has also developed his ability to wrongfoot defenders with a step, stop and twist. A player who has never looked back since making his debut at Wigan on Good Friday 2017.

Jonny Lomax

Is there a more under-rated player in Super League?

Last year Lomax announced his return to the halves, after being displaced at full back by Barba, with an outstanding season.

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Jonny Lomax

This year he has taken it up a notch; tough, measured, composed and unflappable, Lomax has been carving holes in defences all season – and has the ability and vision to create opportunities for those outside him or to back himself.

In the first two games against Warrington this year, Lomax was the best half on the park.

Theo Fages

The Frenchman took the number seven jersey from last year’s Dream Team scrum half Danny Richardson.

Key to Fages’ game is his doggedness – taking the ball into the teeth of the defence, copping the clout for his troubles, but buying that extra foot of space or split second further wide. Has worked well with Lomax and Coote off the back of the pack.

Alex Walmsley

There were some concerns about how Big Al would go this year after suffering that horrendous broken neck bone last term.

We need not have been concerned, with the 29-year-old coming back as big and powerful as ever – smashing holes in the opposition defence and allowing a quick play the ball.

James Roby

The evergreen hooker is the only player in the Saints side with Wembley experience, having played there as a junior in 1997 and then as a senior in 2007 and 2008. Still as important as ever to the side, with his darts from dummy half and smart distribution being a key part of the Saints’ attacking armoury.

The 33-year-old has been used more sparingly this year – but will be leading out the team at Wembley where his experience will be invaluable.

Luke Thompson

Thompson proved that every cloud has a silver lining, taking his ball carrying up a notch when Walmsley was out for most of last year.

And this year they have worked well in tandem together, giving opposition defences no respite from big, quick, strong carries.

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Luke Thompson

Thompson was in the 2014 Grand Final winning side as a 19-year-old and has continued to build his reputation, enhanced on the international stage when he faced the Kiwis last year.

Wembley could be just the place for the former Bold Miners Junior to have a gallop.

Zeb Taia

An old head in the Saints pack, the 34-year-old former Gold Coast Titan has rolled back the years this year.

Up until dislocating his shoulder, Taia was producing the form of his career on the Saints left hand side, showing the sort of touches Chris Joynt made his trademark in the red vee.

Dom Peyroux

Is there another player who has improved most under Justin Holbrook than Peyroux?

Initially signed as a centre, the former Cook Islands and Samoan international has done what predecessor Sia Soliola did in showing his real strengths in the back row. Peyroux hits with venom in the tackle and gives real penetration on the right edge. His broken arm injury last year played a big role in disrupting Saints’ season when the big games came, hopefully he can get his reward for another big season this year, starting at Wembley.

St Helens Star: Dominique Peyroux in pre-season training

Dom Peyroux

Morgan Knowles

The Welsh international loose forward plays with a maturity beyond his years.

A work horse in defence, and one who does a lot of the unseen extras, whether that is kick pressure or pouncing on the loose scraps.

He also runs hard and has a good, loose forward’s handing game in the middle.

Skippered the side at London – the shape of things to come.

Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook

He has seen Millwall play here, but this is his first as a Saint.

Another player who has improved under Holbrook, LMS bring bags of energy and enthusiasm off the bench, whether at prop, second row or loose forward.

Kyle Amor

The Cumbrian prop missed out on the big games at the back end last term, but has hit a good vein of form this season. His run that set up Joseph Paulo for his first try as a Saint summed that up.

Joseph Paulo

Can play in a dinner jacket, the way he distributes the ball as a loose forward. But he has shown he can run it as tough as anyone. He was brought over to add big game experience to the squad.

Jack Ashworth

Another native of Rochdale – and like Lees he is an up and at em character. Runs it in hard and fast and does not stand any messing. Another young forward who is maturing with age.

James Bentley

Signed as a second row, Bentley has shown his versatility covering at nine and centre. The former Bradford Bull brings industry and enthusiasm to the team.

Danny Richardson

Out of favour at the start of the year, last year’s Dream Team seven found a way back through dual reg at Leigh.

With the squad adjusted in Coote’s absence, Richardson has been handed an opportunity back in the first team.

He has shown some great touches, particularly against Wakefield.