Starting XVII: Is this how St Helens will line up in 2022?

Only three teams in the history of British rugby league have won three titles in a row. Wigan did it first in the 80s as they began an unprecedented dominance over the sport before Leeds accomplished the three-peat at St Helens’ expense from 2007-09. However, after Saints fans had to endure the anguish of losing three consecutive Grand Finals, they now know how it feels to win three in a row establishing this St Helens side as one of the greatest teams in British rugby league history.

But can they win an unprecedented fourth Super League title in 2022? With a number of new arrivals in their squad, there’s a sense of change at the Totally Wicked Stadium but with the core of the title winning squad still together they’ll take some stopping next year especially with the huge depth they boast in a number of positions leaving Kristian Woolf with a difficult task on his hand to decide on a 17, but today we’re taking on that task predicting how the Saints are likely to line up next year.

Fullback: Jack Welsby

After winning three Super League titles in a row, Lachlan Coote leaves huge shoes to fill in the number one jersey in 2022 but if anyone can replace Coote it’s Jack Welsby. The reigning Young Player of the Year scored 13 tries and registered 13 assists in 2021 in a variety of positions thanks to his wide range of skills which make him the ideal fullback for St Helens with the ability to potentially become the next Sam Tomkins. Don’t be surprised to see him pushing for the Man of Steel in the years to come, he’ll certainly be in the running for a place in the Dream Team after being named in the 2021 edition at centre.

Wingers: Tommy Makinson and Regan Grace

It could be said that no team in the league have the same kind of quality on the wings that the Champions boast. In the shape of Tommy Makinson, St Helens have one of the best wingers in the world and a golden boot winner in 2018. A fantastic finisher, a hard worker with an eye of a try finishing 2019 as the league’s top scorer, Makinson will be key to any success St Helens achieve in 2022 and the same could be said of Regan Grace. With blistering speed, delightful footwork and mesmerising balance he can score tries others simply can’t.

Centres: Will Hopoate and Mark Percival

Just like Welsby at fullback, Hopoate has massive shoes to fill at centre taking on the number three shirt left by the Sydney Roosters bound Kevin Naiqama after he left St Helens with three Grand Finals wins and a Harry Sunderland Award evening scored a decisive brace in last year’s decider. However, an NRL Grand Final winner and with great attacking flair, Hopoate will give St Helens definite quality in 2022 as will Mark Percival who, after getting over the injuries which kept him out of the 2020 Grand Final and plenty of games at the start of 2021, began to show glimpses of the quality which make him one of the best English centres around. You may be wondering about Challenge Cup winner and two-time Dream Team member Konrad Hurrell who joins from Leeds in 2022. Number 23 in the squad, he won’t be the first choice centre next year but his presence in the squad will bring the best out of Hopoate and Percival as the three battle for a place in the side.

Halfbacks: Jonny Lomax and Lewis Dodd

The departure of Theo Fages left people wondering how Saints would address the halves going into 2022 with some wondering whether or not they would bring in someone from outside the club or not. However, the form of Lewis Dodd last season in the absence of Fages through injury took the decision away from the Saints he was that good. Now a Grand Final winner, he began building a good partnership with the experienced Jonny Lomax last year and in 2022 they’ll likely continue to develop as a pair with Lomax’s experience complimenting the youth, hubris and creativity Dodd will bring.

Props: Alex Walmsley and Matty Lees

There can be no doubting Alex Walmsley’s status as the best prop in the league over the last eight years or so. Granted a testimonial in 2022, it should be a huge year for the England international as he looks to guide the Saints to a fourth consecutive title by providing them with the devastating platform we saw him create again and again last year with rampaging runs. He’ll be joined in the front row by Matty Lees who is perhaps the most underrated prop in the league. It’s hard to shine alongside someone like Walmsley but a dynamic runner and a hard worker, he could catch the eye in 2022.

Hooker: James Roby

A Super League legend, the Saints skipper is going into what is presumed to be his final season after a long and illustrious career. It’s likely he’ll set a new record for Super League appearances next year as he goes after a sixth Super League title. Still a superb hooker and a top-notch organiser, he’ll still be key to Saints next year.

Second-rowers: Sione Mata’utia and Joe Batchelor

The backrow that helped Saints to the title last year have been awarded the number 11 and 12 jerseys going into 2022. After a bit of a slow start to life at the Totally Wicked Stadium and missing out on Wembley through suspension, Mata’utia finished last season incredibly strongly and is a solid tip for the Super League Dream team in 2022. Meanwhile, Joe Batchelor came out of nowhere last season to become one of Saints’ key players and one of the best backrowers in the league thanks to his great work rate and physicality.

Loose-forward: Morgan Knowles

A member of the last three Super League Dream Teams, Morgan Knowles has taken on the mantle as the league’s premier loose-forward over the last few years. An England international and a definite pick in Shaun Wane’s World Cup squad, expect him to have another big season in 2022.

Substitutes: Joey Lussick, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Curtis Sironen, Agnatius Paasi

Such is the quality of St Helens’ first 17 squad numbers, it seems that they’ll be Kristian Woolf’s first choice side going into next season. In Joey Lussick, the Saints have a quality hooker to provide cover for James Roby and likely replace him in 2023. With such a quality player on the bench, Saints will again be a tough side to stop. The same could be said of the rest of the bench too including exciting signing Curtis Sironen and arguably the league’s best impact sub in Agnatius Paasi. Meanwhile, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook really impressed both starting and off the bench for the Saints last season and will continue that in 2022 as a top-notch option amongst the substitutes. However, with the likes of Kyle Amor and exciting youngster Jake Wingfield pushing for places in the 17 all those on the bench will have to maintain good form to keep their place in the side.

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