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Exclusive: Mark Flanagan compares current St Helens side to 2014 Champions and explains what makes Alex Walmsley so special

St Helens are chasing a record breaking fourth consecutive Super League title as they host Salford Red Devils in the Super League semi-finals this weekend.

If the Saints do go on to win this week and retain their trophy next week at Old Trafford they will topple the record set by Leeds from 2007-09 and claim a 10th title in the process.

But it won’t be easy with the Saints missing a number of key players with star forward Alex Walmsley the latest to miss out with a foot injury.

For Saints fans this is evoking memories of when they won the Grand Final in 2014 despite a whole host of injuries to key players like star signing Luke Walsh.

With that in mind, we spoke to Mark Flanagan about any similarities he spots between the current Saints side the side he led to Grand Final glory in 2014 as a stand in halfback: “In 2014, we had the injuries a bit earlier in the season so we were able to rejig the squad a little bit and build those combinations going into the play-offs.

“It was me, Jordan Turner, Lance Hohaia as pivots a month before the play-offs so we were able to build some momentum going into the play-offs.

“However, it’s going to be a bit of a re-jig this time around but as long as the spine is pretty much in tact for Saints I don’t think the playing structure will change too much.”

So, he feels that if Saints can maintain their playing structure, they may well be fine but if believes a different area, one reminiscent of 2014, could be more important that structure and personnel: “In regards to the spirit we had in 2014, I think Saints have had that for the last few years the way they play for each other, the way they compete, that comradery they’ve had that for a long time and I’d never question that.”

However, the big question for him is whether they can do it without the one of a kind Alex Walmsley: “It’s just whether they can do it without the man in the middle who is probably the most devastating ball carrier we’ve had in the history of Super League I think.

“I don’t think there’s been a front rower who can make as many breaks, score as many tries or change a game with one big carry like he does.”

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