SAINTS coach Paul Wellens has praised the way Sunday’s opponents London Broncos have dealt with the difficult circumstances around their status in Super League.

Effectively relegated before a ball had been kicked in 2024, due to the way the IMG points system will determine next year’s top-flight, the Broncos have stayed true to the identity and retained faith in the players that secured a surprise promotion.

Although they have found themselves on the end of some lob-sided scorelines they have gamely stuck to their task and even managed to secure a win over Hull FC.

Those two teams currently share the wooden spoon position with two points apiece – but the Broncos, featuring a strong contingent of players from London and the south, have kept showing up.

Hopefully, they can hopefully use the experience of this season to continue to build in the capital.

The Saints boss was full of admiration for his Leigh-born counterpart Mike Eccles for the way he has instilled a togetherness against the odds.

Wellens said: “There's a lot of talk around the promotion, relegation, whether people deem it fair or not.

“I don't want to get too caught up in that, but certainly if you're a team, a player or anybody within their organisation who are faced with that challenge, I think you can only be impressed with the very commendable way they've approached this year.

“I think Mike Eccles in particular has done a really good job in terms of galvanising his squad and they all compete really hard for each other week in, week out in difficult circumstances.

“We certainly respect that.”

Saints have not played in the capital since the 2019 season when they lost twice to the Broncos at Ealing Trailfinders in a year in which the Londoners were relegated on an inferior points difference to Hull KR, and were just one win behind Huddersfield and Wakefield.

Saints have played forms of this opposition at Fulham, Charlton, Brentford, The Stoop, Barnet and Ealing since 1980 – and have some fond memories of the experience.

In answering the question whether in an ideal world there would be a London team in Super League, Wellens paused before giving his considered verdict.

“Personally, I think yes. I've always loved playing down in London and I've always loved the challenge of going to London as a player and now as a coach.

“The catchment area is huge. Maybe if you look in the past, perhaps they haven't always got it right down there.

“But I think perseverance with the London team is probably important for the future of the game,” he said.

Wellens has good memories playing at tomorrow’s venue – The Stoop home of Harlequins – and he was reminded of a the season opener of that all-conquering 2006 campaign when he crossed for a hat-trick.

“I am glad you said that and not me,” he laughed.

“But yes, I have great memories of that game - that was obviously a fantastic year for us as a club and Harlequins away was the first game of the season .

“The Stoop is a fantastic place to go and play rugby.

“I think the London fans in particular get really behind the team when you go down there, that's very evident and that's always been the case and we always take a pretty healthy following.

“Considering it is a long journey and a fair trip to get down there, it's one that that our supporters love going to so we hope to see many of them down there on the weekend.

“We're just really looking forward to going down there and showcasing the best of us,” Wellens said The game sees Saints plant the standard for rugby league in the very shadow of English rugby union’s HQ, with the giants stands of the huge Twickenham Stadium dominating the skyline.

Saints’ presence will stir the interest of some observers from the 15-man code – and hopefully Wellens’ outfit can produce a performance to win over some recruits to league.

Wellens said: “We like to think of ourselves as one of the biggest clubs in the country when it comes to rugby league and like to think there's a lot of people who don't normally watch rugby league a lot in the capital will come to the game on the weekend because they want to watch us play.

“We're looking forward to the occasion it's going to be a nice occasion to go there and play in the capital but ultimately we've got a job to do and that's the most important thing.”