Today, Kristian Woolf named an interesting squad for St Helens’ clash with Castleford on Friday night.
After doubling down following a massive derby win over Wigan to defeat Huddersfield on Easter Monday in terms of his squad selection, Woolf has rested a number of first team players and could be set to hand out a few debuts come Friday night.
Today, when talking to the press, Woolf has explained his decision to do so: “The French trip takes a lot out of you and we put a lot in that game to make sure we got a win there. We were on a short turn around with that travel going into the biggest game of the year on Good Friday, the derby. A big game, a bruising game and emotionally takes it out of you.
“Then a two-day turn around which is the shortest in the competition to come out and beat a strong and committed Huddersfield side.
“That’s three games in nine days against the teams sitting second, third and fourth. That takes a lot out of you. I wasn’t prepared to turn around and ask our players to play another game on another short turnaround which would mean playing four games in 13 days.
“I think what it is, is we have a competition that doesn’t really protect the players. And when we’ve got that I need to make decisions to make sure I’m protecting my players.”
He also stated that it was 100% his decision and was taken out of the players’ hands: “It’s my decision, my decision I took out of their hands. Sometimes as a coach I’ve got to do what I think is best for them individually and what’s best for the group. That’s exactly the decision I made.”
However, he could not contain his excitement at giving some young players and fringe players the chance to shine on Friday night. After all, following the injury to Lewis Dodd, there’s an opening for one young halfback to force their way into a strong Saints side chasing glory: “These are the most exciting games to have the opportunity to put some players out who haven’t had a lot of opportunities this year. We’ve seen in the last couple of weeks what James Bell can do with a big opportunity.
“There’s a number of other guys that I’m excited to see what they’re going to do and what they get to do is come in fresh and be at their best.”
Woolf also provided an injury update on Regan Grace: “He’s coming along really well. He’s been doing high-speed running as part of his rehab and recovery. He’s in a really good position and will be available in the next week or two.”
There was also good news on Will Hopoate and Sione Mata’utia with a Challenge Cup semi-final just around the corner: “He[Will Hopoate] has been a little bit unlucky. He’s not had an injury for three years and he’s come over here and had the opportunity to be in a side which is having success and unfortunately he’s had a few injuries which have kept him from being a part of that.
“He’s in good place and ran really well this week. He was possibly in a position to be in contention this Friday but given the fact he’s had smaller niggles, we thought it was smarter to give him another week. I’ll be very sure he’ll be available for Salford next week and Sione is in the same boat: a week or two away.”