THE Magic of the Cup, the threat of Leeds, Lewis Dodd's cover tackle, players waiting in the wings, the magnificent travelling army and the first players of the year going on dual registration.

These are all topics in this week's Q&A with the Saints coach Paul Wellens.

St Helens Star:

MC: Do you have to work quickly in processing what you saw on Friday and amend things for the same opponents based on what went right or wrong?

PW: In some respects, it's probably a bit less work in terms of how you prepare for that team.

Although they're going to adapt and they're going to look at ways where they can improve and do things a bit differently - that's something we have to be aware of.

But a lot of the personnel doesn’t change and so it's about getting the balance right.

As coaches we are always being really careful in terms of what we show, when we show it, how we show it because quite naturally, as a coach, you feel like you want to cover off on everything.

But by doing that, you are providing far too much information to players.

So I believe in big games like this it is about trusting the playing group and understanding that they know what big games look like.

They understand what is required to win big games and also just covering off on a bit of detail that we feel is important.

MC: Your emergency reshuffle worked at the weekend, but you have still got options both on the wing and in the centres?

PW: Absolutely, blokes like Ben Davies, who's been outstanding throughout the course of pre-season and it is very unfortunate that he's not had more opportunities.

I can say the same about Sam Royle and Tee Ritson also - so there are a number of options there for us.

I've said all along since being in the job that if you want to be successful as a club we are going to need the full squad to come in and step in at times of need.

Joe Batchelor was a great example of that on the weekend, and I know he was on the bench, but he was called on to start at a minute’s notice having not played a lot of rugby in a while and just went out there and did the job.

It's those types of efforts that you need during the course of the year if you want to be successful.

St Helens Star:

MC: I know you referenced on Friday how well you had to scramble, but that tackle from Lewis Dodd took some doing, not just to get across but to actually hold him up physically?

PW: It was a brilliant play. Obviously we got opened up on our left edge which we need to be better.

This is what it takes in these types of games – moments like that. Sometimes you are going to get opened up, sometimes you are going to get beat or come up with a poor defensive read and you need people turning up for each other.

And what Lewis Dodd showed on the weekend, along with Matt Whitley, was a great example of what it takes to win big games.

MC: Saints had a couple of couple of years where you've faced Championship teams at this stage but you're straight in now with Leeds in a very busy period.

But it's a real way to kick off the cup isn't it?

PW: I spoke to the players last week about it being a really exciting period of the season for us with all of the big games coming up.

As a player and as a coach it's the big games that excite you and it's the big games that you want to be part of.

This week is a another big one and there's a few more coming up in front of us as well and I know this playing group are excited about the next few weeks.

St Helens Star:

MC: Been some cracking cup ties between saints and Leeds – one of Jon Wilkin’s finest moments as a makeshift half came in this game?

PW: Down the years have been a number of big cup ties and I been fortunate to play in some and more recently been coaching in.

I think there's a lot of similarities between the two clubs in terms of an expectation around success.

Both clubs have had a lot of success in their recent history and quite naturally when you get two really competitive teams it makes for a great occasion and both ourselves and Leeds have found success in our recent history.

PW: In the first half of the summer era the Challenge Cup was never away from St Helens, but one cup in 15 years stands out?

PW: When we won the cup in 2008, it was our third on the run and if someone had said then you won't get another one until 2021, we probably wouldn't have believed it at the time.

But that's the nature of sport, isn't it? You have got to earn everything and our period of not being there that period of Cup starvation, so to speak, reignited the fire in a lot of our players.

I feel having a couple of years of missing out there in a couple of semi finals that the hunger is burning again to get back to Wembley.

But to do that we have to overcome a really strong Leeds side and that has to be our main focus.

MC: Back-to-back Fridays for the for the supporters. Saints had 1,400 fans there last week, the challenge of the M62 on a Friday, bunking off work early and hoping it doesn't rain. You've got the same again this this Friday. This is some effort from those fans, isn't it?

PW: The fans have been incredible for a long, long time now. And we seem to be one of those clubs that takes a really big following to the majority of our away games. I know there’s a huge passion amongst our supporters for the team and the players. Every time we travel, we come in big numbers and the players are all really grateful of that.

I think you saw that at the end of the game, the way the players went over to thank the supporters for their efforts and their support throughout what was a really tough game.


MC: Noah Stephens and Johnny Vaughan went out on dual reg at Swinton at the weekend. Is this the start of their journey of open age rugby and how did they go?

PW: It is their start of the journey but also a great opportunity for them and I have referenced in the past the way George Delaney approached his stint at Swinton last year on dual reg and what that did for him and his development was unbelievable.


George is a great example. The challenge for Noah, Jonny and the rest of the guys, whenever they do go on dual reg is to take those opportunities because, as they have seen with George, it can lead to bigger and better things.

We're really grateful to Swinton and to Alan Kilshaw the coach and they're a good club.

We have a lot of trust and faith in sending our players there and we feel that they can develop as not just players, but as people, being part of that environment. So it's a relationship that we really value.

We have a lot of trust and faith in sending our players there and we feel that they can develop as not just players, but as people, being part of that environment.

So it's a relationship that we really value.