FORMER Saints coach Kristian Woolf believes his assistant Paul Wellens will benefit from the experience of mixing with the Tongan players and staff during the current three-match test series.

Wellens had a tough act to follow jumping into the Saints head coach’s role after the club had enjoyed unprecedented four-in-a-row Super League title success.

But Woolf believes his former understudy has handled the challenges of the year well – and tipped him for a successful future in the role.

Woolf said: “Paul and I have spoken all year, maybe every two to three weeks.

“He is a person I consider a close friend as well as somebody I worked with that was always going to be the case.

“I don’t need to give him advice – he is an extremely smart coach, but there are times where will talk through different things that have come up at Saints, and I will talk about things that have come up at our place (Dolphins).

"That is what we do as friends and as coaches.”

Wellens’ tenure as head coach got off to a dream start with the World Club Challenge win over Penrith, but the team encountered a tough spell in the league with injuries and suspensions being a hinderance to the side’s progress.

Alas, after a fine run of form towards the end of the campaign, Saints four-year tenure as champions came to and end in the closing minute of the semi final in Perpignan.

Woof said: “If you look at the season as a whole, you can’t forget what he achieved at the start of the year and how big an occasion that was.

“It has been a tough year with injuries and disruption, but I think he has handled that really well.

“Success is not judged on one year – it is judged on a number of years and how consistent you can be.

“I am extremely confident that Paul is going to be there for a long time and he will be judged on being very successful.

Wellens, who has had a long-term involvement with the England squad, switched to Tonga after being asked by Woolf.

And it is a link-up that Woolf believes will aid the young Saints coach’s development in more ways than one.

“I wanted him involved in our camp because I know what a good person he is , and what a good coach is and how he was in my three years here,” Woolf said.

“I know I trust him and he was the first person I rang to come and be involved as soon as I knew there was an opening.

“It is a completely new experience for Paul and Matty Daniels – they came into camp and were listening to hymns, watching cultural nights and wearing tupenus.

“So those experiences you get with a team like Tonga away from football – as well as getting to deal with some of the players and some of the athletes and the guys we have got involved really help you develop as a coach and really help you see some different things.

“They are also mixing with Tony Guilfoyle in the Strength & Conditioning) and Ben Hornby in the coaching staff and they will share different ideas, so I think it is a great relationship all round.”