Saints legend Paul Sculthorpe previews the champions’ trip to France to take on Catalans Dragons in the Betfred Super League on Friday night (19:45).
Catalans Dragons vs St Helens Tips
- Saints to win by over 10 points @ 9/4
One opinion that caught my eye last week was that of former Sky Sports commentator Mike Stephenson regarding St Helens’ mixed start to the season.
Stevo claimed that the four-time champs have struggled in the opening few months of the Betfred Super League season because their ‘aging’ players are unable to maintain the standards that have made them so successful in recent years.
I struggle to agree with this. Sure, some of the old guard are not as elusive as they were in their prime, and a few have struggled with injuries so far this season, but some of the best performances this season have come when the older players – such as Tommy Makinson and Jonny Lomax who are both well into their 30s – were on-song.
Lomax, who I said last week has been a mixed bag this season, turned in one of his finest displays in a while when taking apart a much-fancied Warrington Wolves two weeks ago.
The team’s performance that day reaffirmed what they are capable of when in the mood. Hopefully it’s the kick they needed as they chase an incredible five titles in a row.
Title sponsors Betfred believe that’s the most likely scenario, with Saints 15/8 favourites to get their hands on the trophy once again at Old Trafford in October.
Stephenson’s side-kick Eddie Hemmings had more to say on Saints’ roster, claiming that NRL basement boys West Tigers are ‘very keen’ to take half-back Lewis Dodd at the end of this season.
Personally, I think Lewis has a lot of work to do. With the right attitude and application, he can be the best half-back in the division so I’d like to see him focus on playing his best rugby at the Totally Wicked Stadium before any talk of moving elsewhere.
This is one of the reasons why the IMG Partnership HAS to drastically improve the commerciality of Super League and its players. The NRL have already taken a punt on some of our up-and-coming stars such as Will Pryce and Kai Pearce-Paul who will join Newcastle Knights next season.
These are players who haven’t been consistently ripping up trees but the significant difference in salary caps allow their clubs to take the risk and give these youngster the experience of the premier rugby league competition.
Speaking of young British talent, it was great to see some new faces in the England team that took apart France in Saturday’s international double-header at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
England boss Shaun Wane, with one eye on the 2025 Rugby League World Cup, selected a young side, giving away 13 international debuts under the leadership of new skipper George Williams.
Williams and Leeds’ Ash Handley both crossed for hat-tricks in the 64-0 demolition, but I think the big positive was the introduction of Hull KR’s Jez Litten & co., who are the future of England RL.
Back to Betfred Super League – following a week off for everyone bar Jack Welsby, Saints face a tough visit to France where the Catalans Dragons await on Friday.
I’m hoping they go there with the same attitude they showed against Warrington and turn in a clinical performance against the fourth-placed Dragons – and prove Stevo wrong!
I’m going for the boys to win this by over 10 points, which is 9/4 at Betfred.