Paul Wellens slams “out of control” tackle technique that ended two Saints’ seasons

There was some brilliant knockout rugby league at the weekend with four of Super League’s most exciting teams in St Helens, Leigh Leopards, Wigan Warriors and Hull KR all in action in the Challenge Cup.

As cup semi-finals go you’ll struggle to find two more intense games in the long and prestigious history of the 127-year-old competition.

Both games went to the wire with St Helens missing a conversion to take the game to golden point, whilst Sunday’s clash did head to golden point with the ‘Schneider decider’ sending Rovers to Wembley.

It could be expected that after such brilliant adverts for the sport, both live on terrestrial TV, that there would be an air of positivity and celebration regarding our brilliant sport but that’s sadly not the case.

Monday saw outrage among fans at the disciplinary action, or lack of it, and Tuesday saw confirmation from St Helens that two of their pack will miss the remainder of the season.

St Helens released the news via their website that both Alex Walmsley and Agnatius Paasi had suffered season-ending injuries.

Head coach Paul Wellens explained: “Both Agnatius and Alex have been injured and injured pretty badly. We as a Club, myself as a coach, and those players in particular are angry, upset and disappointed with some of the events from the weekend. Not just those events, but what has transpired in the subsequent days, how we feel that both Agnatius and Alex have been let down by the game.

“We talk about player welfare and the duty of care to its players, those players have been failed this weekend. For Agnatius he is out for a minimum of nine months, he can only have his ACL repaired after his MCL and his ankle ligaments have also healed. It’s three injuries in one tackle. Alex has had surgery today on his MCL, that will be at least twelve weeks.”

The tackler involved in both of those injuries, albeit not the sole tackler, was Leigh’s skipper John Asiata who Wellens has now described as “out of control”.

“Well the bloke is out of control. He’s just hurling himself at player’s knees,” explained in his pre-match press conference to BBC Radio Merseyside.

“It’s a tackle technique that is not just brought into play on the weekend. It’s a tackle technique he’s been using, he used it against us in round three.

“It’s been an accident waiting to happen and this is why in my opinion the RFL are culpable, and the Match Review Panel are culpable.

“They’ve had numerous opportunities to get in and influence the way he tackles and get him to stop doing it and they’ve failed to do that.”

Asked about what should happen next Wellens refrained from calling for retrospective action, however he did outline what the sport needs to do for tackle safety in the future.

“This isn’t a St Helens vs Leigh thing, we need to clean our sport up and make it a sport that’s safe to play. When we look at incidents like that and deem them legal and not find anything to charge on then I have a real problem with it.

“Ultimately as it’s gone to show this weekend, tackling in that manner has serious consequences.”