Concern for St Helens as star player’s absence is explained by Paul Wellens

St Helens are taking on St George Illawarra Dragons this morning in the pre-season challenge.

This competition sees Super League Champions St Helens provide the extra team to take it 18 after the introduction of new club The Dolphins to the NRL.

It is the perfect chance for St Helens to prepare ahead of the World Club Challenge which takes place next week against Penrith Panthers who at present lead against Parramatta Eels in the Pre-Season Challenge themselves, a competition where there is $100,000 available.

That World Club Challenge is live on Channel 4 and Sky Sports next week whilst today’s game is on Sky Sports Mix meaning that fans don’t need a Sky Sports subscription to watch the game.

It kicks off at 9am UK time and thus Paul Wellens has named his team for the clash.

There is a surprise call in the backs. Many expected a battle between number five Jon Bennison and new signing Tee Ritson for the spot on the left wing as the replacement for Regan Grace but neither play not even Grand Final and semi-final try scorer Bennison.

Instead Will Hopoate starts on the wing allowing Konrad Hurrell to play at centre.

The rest of the team is as you’d expect for the most part. Jack Welsby is at fullback, Tommy Makinson and Mark Percival make up the backline.

Jonny Lomax and Lewis Dodd are in the halves whilst the front row is Alex Walmsley, skipper James Roby and Matty Lees. Sione Mata’utia and Joe Batchelor start in the backrow but Morgan Knowles doesn’t start at 13.

Instead James Bell starts. The rest of the squad is on the bench.

Now Wellens has explained Knowles’ absence and it is a bit of a concern going into next week.

“It is pretty much as you’d expect. We wanted to field our strongest team possible,” Wellens said on Saints’ Twitter page.

“Unfortunately one guy hasn’t made it in Morgan Knowles. He has been a little under the weather this week.

“Given the fact we have a really important game next week and if he goes out there and plays and isn’t 100% it could set his recovery back a few days so we have taken the sensible approach with him.

“He’s raring to go and looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s a reward for James Bell for his efforts since he came back from training and the way he has gone about his work. We’re looking forward to seeing him out.

“I’m extremely excited but I’m more excited for the players.”

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