Trio to play in opener

Lance Hohaia
Lance Hohaia
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ROYCE Simmons will hand debuts to his three new signings in next Friday’s historic opening game at Langtree Park.

Club officials have put a ceiling of 13,000 on the crowd for Saints’ Karalius Cup pre-season friendly against Widnes Vikings on Friday, January 20 – and are urging fans to snap up tickets as soon as possible to avoid being locked out.

It will be 5,000 less than capacity, and deemed necessary as part of the club’s qualification for a safety certificate.

Saints head coach Simmons is planning to field a strong side on the night, and will include his three new signings – Anthony Laffranchi, Lance Hohaia and Mark Flanagan – in the squad, as well as Jonny Lomax, Jamie Foster and Josh Perry, who is hoping to put behind him an injury-ravaged Super League XVI.

Simmons said: “We are delight to be welcoming Widnes to our new home, and I have no doubt it will be a keenly-fought encounter.

“We will be well on with our pre-season training, and a game against a fellow Super League club will be a real test.

“I will be fielding our strongest side possible.

“It is also nice to welcoming Widnes to the stadium for what will be an historic first match as a thank you for their help and hospitality last season, when we played all our home games at the Stobart Stadium, while our new arena was being built.”

Widnes boss Denis Betts said: “To play the 2011 Super League Grand Finalists in what will be the first game in a new stadium is a massive honour, and further proves the strong links we have with St Helens.

“Given the fixture is just a couple of weeks before our Super League opener, going head-to-head with such quality opposition will also give us a greater understanding of how our pre-season has gone, and where we are at.

“As a player and coach, I don’t think I’ve ever equated the words rugby league and friendly in the same sentence.

“Whenever you play this game, you can’t go into it half-hearted.

“You always give it your best shot.

“This is how we will be treating the match, and I’ve no doubt whatsoever it will be as real contest between two committed teams.”