COACH Paul Wellens has explained why George Delaney was initially left out of the Saints 17 for last Friday’s Super League match at Leeds.

The all-action 20-year-old prop, however, was called back to the bench when Saints hastily rearranged their match-day squad when Tommy Makinson pulled up in the warm up.

Wellens explained that the initial decision was to try and look after Delaney, given his relative youth playing in the tough position of front row - especially with the way he plays the game.

The Saints middle unit has had to do some pretty heavy lifting so far this season, starting the campaign without Agnatius Paasi and then losing Matty Lees for a couple of games after being hospitalised at Huddersfield.

Lees’ return to the team and Alex Walmsley recovering from the tight calves that limited his second half game time against Salford the week previously gave Wellens the option of “looking after” Delaney.

Wellens said: “What I have got to factor in is when you've got a squad and a healthy squad - and the way that George plays the game, I've got to remind myself that he's a 20-year-old front rower.

“And at times, sometimes, we need to save him from himself because of the way he plays the game.

“We want George to play the game - and not just for five years or six years - we want him to be playing at 32-33 and part of that is protecting young players at times.

“So although they are desperate to play every game, which is what I love about the playing group, sometimes we have to make strong decisions and smart decisions.

“George was disappointed that he wasn't going to play, but then obviously at a minute’s notice that changed for him, so he quickly had a smile back on his face.”

With Joe Batchelor fit again and if, as is expected Curtis Sironen comes back in after recovering from his back spasm, Wellens will have a tough call to make in the pack and on the bench.

His choice is made tougher given the solid contribution that Jake Wingfield has been making since he returned to the side following last year’s surgery.

“In some respects it's a great position to be in as a coach because you know you've got a wealth of talent and ideally you'd like to pick them all, but you can't put 22-23 players into 17,” Wellens said.

“So we're going to make some strong calls and some smart calls but the unfortunate thing around it is that every week I've probably got two, three, four disappointed players because everybody wants to play so.

“It's a difficult challenge to pick the team, but I wouldn't have it any other way as well.”