PLAYERS from days gone by really scoff at the moaning and concern about welfare that goes on at this time of year.

"Try playing 46 games a year and then work five and a half days a week in between," is the common refrain from Saints of yesteryear.

Modern coaches, including past players who endured all of that, tend to offer a much different perspective.

It now seems possible that the two games in four days will change next year as part of the wider shake up of the league system.

My gripe with the schedule is not Easter, but what comes after – particularly this season.

Having a knockout fixture planned the week after a gruelling double header seems ludicrous. It smacks of the broadcasters calling the shots and filling their slot in isolation - leaving the players, coaches and ultimately the fans to potentially suffer the consequences.

For Saints the next eight days will present a massive test to their outstanding start to the season.

Entertaining champions Wigan in front of a sell-out gate, swiftly followed by an Easter Monday trip to a Vikings side unbeaten on the I-pitch so far this term would be a tough schedule at the best of times.

Having a Challenge Cup round the week after Easter must massively alter how clubs approach these games.

It is slightly different for Wigan who, no disrespect to Hunslet, can have a more relaxed week in the build up. It is ok for the Warriors, who seem to be reliving their iconic Wembley cup dates in their draw so far, with Dewsbury (1929) and Hunslet (1965) so far – maybe they will pull out Sheffield (1998) in the quarters.

But for Saints, presented with the toughest tie of the round for the second week running, it does pose a massive headache. There will be no chance of the usually excusable tired performance that traditionally follows in the back-up week from the Easter double header.

Shaun Wane will have his side fired up and primed to regain bragging rights - and Saints will of course, have to meet fire with fire.

But any knocks sustained in action this week and indeed any tackles that go beyond the margin in the heat of the blood and thunder of Good Friday could have a disproportionate impact on Saints' season.

For Nathan Brown – and all connected with Saints – it will be a case of crossing your fingers and rattling off ten Hail Marys and hope that he comes through the other end with a full complement of players.

If it is any consolation to Saints, Denis Betts has a depleted to call upon for the Easter Monday game at Widnes - and they, too, could have an eye on the following weekend’s cup trip to Salford.

Aside from the fifth round falling the week after Easter – and it is not the first time it has happened – there is an issue with the irregular flow of the cup rounds.

The intervals between rounds go from three, six and nine weeks and then it ludicrously leaves less than a fortnight between the semi-final and the showpiece at Wembley. Thirteeen days hardly gives the towns whose clubs are heading to down to the finale time to get the bunting out, let alone order the buses and stock up on supplies the Pimblett’s Wembley pack – oops, maybe not.

Terrestrial coverage is a godsend to rugby league, and BBC showcases the sport to an audience far greater than satellite broadcasters, but surely the game can drive a harder bargain when it comes to scheduling.

It is tough. As far as the world outside our bubble is concerned rugby league is small fry when put alongside the rugby union’s Six Nations, Wimbledon tennis and the football World Cup – big events that hog large chunks of the schedule.

But we seem to have accepted that the rounds of our game’s most historic cup competition are simply there to fill in the dates.

Ideally, to give it more momentum, the cup rounds should take place at regular fortnightly intervals in one block of the season and then leave a good month to build Wembley.

It is crazy. We bend the cup out of shape and push it through all kinds of hoops – and then ask ourselves if it is losing its appeal. Let’s give it the treatment it deserves.