THERE were plenty of new faces on board when Saints returned to the training ground this week after a six-week off-season.

There have been some high-profile departures in Lachlan Coote, Theo Fages and James Bentley, but coach Kristian Woolf believes the squad appears as strong as the champions prepare to defend their Super League title once again.

Although there is plenty of hard work to do before the first ball is kicked, the new arrivals and the depth that gives to the squad - and the competition for spots that is evident - has created a buzz.

Woolf said: “We have had salary cap restraints, but we think we have strengthened this year.

“We have managed to replace players in a way that gives us more depth and the potential to be as strong a team.

“That has been tricky, but at this stage that is what I think we have been able to do.

“The proof of the pudding will be in the eating when we get to play and the season starts to unfold.

“It does bring in an uncomfortable feeling in the squad because there is new competition, a jostling for pecking orders.

“It is a great position for us to be in. We know the rest of the comp is getting stronger and so we have to look at ways of staying in front.”

Read the full interview with Kristian Woolf online tomorrow.