SAINTS are well into the swing of a full pre-season, the new boys are all settled and players who had off-season surgery all back on board – so plenty to be positive about for the year ahead.

Winning back-to-back titles raises the bar – and Saints have never won the title three times in a row.

So, what are the big things Saints will be working out, not just in the here and now for this year, but to build going forward.

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1. Saints top squad – with four big recruits and some high-profile departures – has experienced its biggest change for a good while. The first question will be how big man Agnatius Paasi will be used?

Will he be more effective taking carries in tandem with Alex Walmsley, working in the way Big Al and Luke Thompson worked during the 2019 campaign, to build that relentless go-forward and a platform to play off the back off.

Or will Iggy be of more value giving impact off the bench, replacing Walmsley’s size after that early fire. If it is the latter then it will Matty Lees will have to continue his learning curve as a starting prop.

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2. Zeb Taia and Dom Peyroux have gone, in has come Sione Mata’utia and Joel Thompson. The big question here will be how they will be used, given Grand Final winners James Bentley and Morgan Knowles have already got the jump on the starting spots.

It is no big drama, given the rotation of the pack, whoever doesn’t get the starting jersey will nevertheless play plenty of minutes spelling the starters. But it make take some games to work out the best combination for the year ahead.

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3. After winning the Grand Final with the last touch of 2020, the big question is where will Jack Welsby play? He took his chance with Mark Percival out injured. The England centre has returned to full training, but where does that leave Welsby?

Again, there should not be any dramas – last year will have given Welsby even greater confidence in his ability. He will continue to pressurise to make a starting spot his own, and in the meantime his versatility is a key attribute to have for cover and off the bench.

He won’t be alone in pressing, and Josh Simm will also continue to push for a place in the centres to keep the two internationals on their toes.

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4. Will we see more of Lewis Dodd stepping up into the first team this year? Dodd made his debut off the bench against Wigan last year, grabbing his first try against Wakefield and then getting his first start in the young team that was pipped by Salford.

The 19-year-old Widnesian has the skills and confidence to be an outstanding Super League scrum half. His kicking game asks questions of the defence and he is pacy and alert taking on the line.

But the current occupant and two-time Grand Final winner Theo Fages, who is contracted until the end of 2021, will be doing his utmost to keep that jersey.

Saints have had this conundrum before - and after giving Danny Richardson a shot in 2018, Fages wrestledd the shirt back off him in 2019.

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5. James Roby will be entering his remarkable 18th season in Super League….and that is even more significant an achievement given he has notched that tally up in one of the toughest positions on the field, when adding up the metres and the tackling.

A succession of Saints coaches have laughed off suggestions about preparing for Robes’ next in line….And with good cause, the 35-year-old is still running like a well-oiled machine.

But time and tide wait for no man, so getting Josh Eaves or Aaron Smith more opportunities this year could help preserve Robes for another year – and give a better idea of who could step up when that day eventually dawns.