SAINTS’ pre-season is now in full swing – all heads down for those traditionally tough training days to bolster strength and endurance and give a fitness base that will prepare them for a gruelling campaign.

But work with the ball is not being sidelined, especially as Saints’ attack has been highlighted by coach Paul Wellens as the key area where there is room for improvement.

Although Saints’ points scored total of 613 was the third best in Super League last season that was considerably behind Wigan and Catalans on 722 – the two teams they finished level on top with on the league table.

And it was a weakness that especially reared its head in the two semi final knockouts of 2023 in both Challenge Cup and Super League.

As such it will be getting special attention this pre-season – especially once all of those players who were on autumn international duty for England and Tonga return to the fold.

Coach Wellens explained how the pre-season work was evolving as the weeks go by - and why this period is important.

He said: “In the lead up to Christmas the primary aim is to get the lads as fit and as strong as possible, but there is a lot of ball in hand stuff incorporated into the fitness drills.

“You can get the metres in your legs and can get in the hard work in different ways, but doing it with a ball is certainly what I prefer as a coach – as do the players.

“We will certainly try and do as much rugby specific stuff as much as we can.

“After Christmas, when we have a full squad to pick from and we can use the Reserves as well is doing more 13 on 13 sessions and more genuinely related sessions. That will put us in the best position to put our best foot forward in Rounds 1 and 2 and in the other parts of the season.”

This is Wellens’ second season in charge, but last year’s pre-season was impacted at both ends by the World Cup and World Club Challenge trip to Australia.

As such, this period is probably the first real opportunity to evolve a style of play that had been brutally effective under previous coach Kristian Woolf.

“We have sat down as a coaching team and looked at some areas of importance for us off the back of 2023 and we feel we can be a bit better with ball in hand.

“We were the third best attacking team in the comp, so it is not an absolute disaster, but most people who come and watch us see that there is certainly room for improvement.

“We will look to find that by working hard with our half backs and working hard with the rest of the team in terms of nailing down roles and responsibilities. We will be looking to evolve the way we do things so that we can be a bit more threatening more often.

“And I think that's the key. I think we were threatening at times, but were not threatening often enough and there are a number of ways to make sure that's not the case next year.”