“That question really winds me up” – Paul Wellens on the NRL

Paul Wellens has an opportunity to defeat the best of the NRL as a coach but could he have had a chance to be one of the NRL’s best himself as a player.

The St Helens boss spoke about whether he nearly joined the NRL as a player on the Out of your League podcast:

“I never had any real deep desire to go and play in the NRL when I was a player. There might have been an opportunity around when I was 24 or 25 to maybe go and do that but I was happy at St Helens.

“I was playing in a great team with a lot of people that I didn’t just class as teammates but friends as well, so I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

“So playing in the World Club Challenge was kind of my opportunity as an English player to actually say ‘you know what, I can compete at that level’, because there’s always this discussion around ‘could they have made it in the NRL?’

“The question winds me up to be honest because if you’re playing international rugby league, and you’re playing in Super League at the highest level consistently year in year out, then there’s no doubt you could have played in the NRL.”

When asked if this gave him more to prove in these games, Wellens said: “I think so and the fact that we played against a Brisbane side full of Queensland State of Origin players and Australian internationals, then we beat them, is proof that we could have comfortably gone and played in the NRL.

This led Wellens’ former teammate Jon Wilkin to say: “I felt like the World Cup was a chance for England to do something similar which is why I was really disappointed when England went out in the semi-final. I felt like they had the opportunity to really lay a marker down, so maybe this is the chance for St Helens to go and stick one on Penrith.”

However, the Saints boss was keen to place the focus on defending the Super League trophy rather than the World Club Challenge: “The players need to understand that our pre-season hasn’t been around going and beating Penrith, our pre-season has been around about putting ourselves in a position to go and defend our Super League crown.”

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