Paul Wellens Eyes Further Challenge Cup Success As St Helens Head Coach

Wellens won the Challenge Cup five times as a Saints player
09:00, 20 Jul 2023

St Helens head coach Paul says that winning the Betfred Challenge Cup for his boyhood side would be a massive achievement as he gets set for an enticing semi-final clash with Leigh Leopards at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Saturday.

Wellens took over reins at the Saints from Kristian Woolf in October and led the team to their third World Club Challenge title in February. Wellens has been involved in all three world crowns, with two coming as a player for his beloved Saints. 

The 43-year-old won the Challenge Cup five times as a player and knows just how much it means to win this historic competition. But he tells The Sportsman that this semi-final clash with the Leopards is going to be incredibly important for his squad.

Wellens tells The Last Tackle: “I’d be delighted [to win the Challenge Cup] being a St Helens boy coaching my hometown team. 

“It’s most important for the players. They’re the ones out on the field and have the responsibilities to go out there and perform. I’m delighted I get to work with such a dedicated group who are driven for more success. I hope that reflects in our performance on the weekend.”

Saints head into the fixture off the back of a home defeat against Betfred Super League leaders Catalans Dragons but Wellens’ men had won their two previous outings against Warrington Wolves and Castleford Tigers.

In the defeat to Catalans, key duo James Roby and Mark Percival picked up head injuries and have both been ruled out of Saturday’s semi-final which is a crushing blow for the Saints because of the presence both players carry on the field.

“Both Mark and James are really influential players for us and have been pivotal to a lot of the success we’ve had in recent years,” says Wellens

Mark Percival
Mark Percival

“We’ve spoken in-house that if you are going to be successful during the campaign, you’re going to have to deal with periods of adversity. I am confident that whoever comes into the 17 to replace those guys will go out there to give a performance and get a result. We’re disappointed they can’t play but it provides an opportunity for somebody else.”

One of the players who could be given a chance this weekend is 19-year-old George Delaney, who has been impressing the Saints head coach with his rapid development.

“You always want to give young players an opportunity. I’m always keen to stress to young players that it’s not an opportunity given, it’s an opportunity earned, and that’s certainly the case with George. 

“He spent the earlier part of the season playing dual registration with Swinton Lions. He went there and not only played well but was their best player for a number of weeks. It almost got to the point where I had no choice but to put him in the team because he was performing so well. 

“He’s done a great job. He’s maturing very quickly as a player, he’s very keen to learn and work at his game. It’s great for me to watch a young player develop like he’s developing.”

And as he prepares his side to face Leigh, Wellens says has been just as impressed with the Leopards this season following their readjustment to Super League.

“They’ve been outstanding. For a team returning to Super League from the Championship, their level of consistency and performances have been really impressive. But it’s not surprising when you look at the playing roster. You look at the calibre of players that they have within their ranks and how many players that have a wealth of experience from being in the game a long time to playing in big games.”

St Helens to win by 1-12 points is 2/1 with Betfred*

*18+ | BeGambleAware

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