PAUL Wellens has welcomed the added competition posed by the emergence of an outstanding crop of young talent from Saints’ youth side.
Coach Nathan Brown has been forced to throw a number of inexperienced players into the Super League cauldron to combat the club’s ongoing injury crisis.
And club skipper Wellens, himself a product of the feted Saints academy, believes this current young group have all the attributes needed to continue making an impact at the top grade.
“These lads now warrant a place in our starting 17, ahead of some of those more senior players,” said Wellens. “It’s up to everybody else to fight their way back into the team.”
Without the influential James Roby, full-scoring Jonny Lomax and a number of other senior players, Saints have crashed to eight defeats so far this season and are languishing in mid-table.
However, after their stunning win at Headingly over fierce rivals Leeds, Wellens is predicting a brighter finish to the season.
“The boys showed real character, especially from coming 16-0 down, to go on and win the game. It gives us real heart moving forward,” he said.
“One of the main positives to come from the last five or six weeks of disappointment is that our young players have got opportunities.
“You look at the likes of Mark Percival and Luke Thompson in particular, and for two 18-year-olds to perform the way they have speaks volumes for them as young players and our youth system at the club.
“Also, you can look at Alex Walmsley, who’s come from Batley and this is his first season in Super League. He’s performing like he’s been here for 10 years.
“These lads probably wouldn’t have got the opportunities they have had in recent weeks without the injuries we’ve had. In the long term, it really adds strength in depth to our squad.”