Australia full-back Ben Barba will make his long-awaited debut for Saints against neighbours Wigan Warriors at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday - and there is also a starting place for Jonny Lomax.
Head coach Justin Holbrook yesterday confirmed that he had pencilled in both with Lomax, who has occupied the no. 1 spot 14 times so far this season, switching to stand off and Frenchman Theo Fages relegated to the bench.
Barba, Tommy Makinson, Ryan Morgan, Mark Percival, Regan Grace, Lomax and Matty Smith will operate from one to seven with James Roby at hooker but what combination of forwards get the nod from the opening whistle is more difficult to predict, or which players will be on the bench.
The former Cronulla Sharks full-back, who was given a 12-match ban for a cocaine-related offence after helping the Aussie club to victory over Melbourne Storm in the NRL Grand Final last October, will face a baptism of fire against Wigan but Holbrook insists he will be no more pressure than any other player involved in the derby showdown.
“There are not enough players in our sport today like Ben.
“He has the vision to play what he sees and at the same time he has a great deal of experience and knowledge of the game.” said the Saints’ supremo.
He added: “He will bring a lot of things to the team. Everyone appreciates
what he can do with the ball, aware of his running ability, and knows he possesses the skills of a half back.
“I’m also expecting him to play the full 80 minutes despite his long absence from rugby league but there is not a clear cut plan.
“Neither is there any point in putting him on the bench and easing him into the side. It is a case of getting out there and getting amongst it.”
Lomax, too, is quite happy to switching to a different role.
Holbrook said: “I spoke to him about my decision first of all and he is fine about it. He played his junior rugby at half back so it isn’t a position which is foreign to him.”