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Kristian Woolf excited by prospect of St Helens return

Tonga Head Coach, and former St Helens boss, Kristian Woolf has said his return to St Helens is like ‘coming home’, but highlighted his Tonga side aren’t coming for a holiday. 

Woolf spent three years at the helm at St Helens and famously won three titles in a row with the Red Vee; however this weekend he will be in the away dressing room as his Tonga side take on England at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday, the former Saints boss waxed lyrically about the town he once called home: “Oh it’s a great place to come back to,” he said.

“Just the feeling when we got off the plane at Manchester and driving past St Helens and driving into Liverpool and it has got a feeling like coming home.”

“I loved my time over here, I love the town, I love the club and the players I’ve got to deal with as well.”

Woolf will be very familiar with a whole host of England players following his time in Super League, and he was quick to heap praise on them.

“It’s going to be great to go up against some of those players,” said Woolf. “Obviously I hold them in extremely high regard and know how good they are and how strong the competition is over here as well. That makes it a little bit more exciting.”

St Helens as a town has a good connection with the Tongan team. Two of the clubs players, Will Hopoate and Konrad Hurrell, are included in Woolf’s squad; but the club also helped fundraise for the Pacific Nation following the Tsunami last year.

Woolf touched on the connection between the town and his side, saying: “Obviously, there’s my own involvement with Tonga and being in St Helens and having guys like Will Hopoate, Konrad Hurrell, Agnatius Paasi, there’s a fairly strong link there and has been for a few years now.”

“When the tsunami came along, we obviously put our hands up and wanted to be a part of trying to put some smile back on people’s faces back in Tonga and I was really proud of the efforts there and not just the efforts of the club but the efforts of the whole town.”

“It was outstanding how many people came in to want to donate and want to be a part of that and want to get behind that, so it just sort of showed that connection and really strengthened it,” he exclaimed.

Whilst there is a strong connection between the town of St Helens and Tonga, Woolf is aware his players are not just here for a holiday.

“We were lucky enough to get a couple of games here for the World Cup and I think that certainly helped strengthen that a little bit more and it’s great to be back; but look, we’re under no illusions here, we know that we’ve come over to hostile ground and we’re playing England in three games on English soil, so we’re not expecting the fans to be behind us.”

He added: “I certainly hope there’s a couple of St Helens fans that want to cheer us on, but we’re expecting most people to be against us.”

The three-match series, which begins on Sunday, is the first time a tier two nation would have toured England.

Woolf expressed his excitement at this historic event, saying: “We’re the first tier two nation to do that, or to get that invite. To come over and play a three-game series against a tier one nation, and one in England as well, it’s a big deal for us and something we’re very excited about.

He added: “For a long time now we’ve been drumming on about wanting more opportunities, wanting meaningful games, wanting big games and we’ve got everything that we want and we’re really looking forward to it.”

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