Brown - Lance is staying

Lance Hohaia was left out of the squad to face Warrington
Lance Hohaia was left out of the squad to face Warrington

Nathan Brown has denied reports from Down Under that Kiwi international Lance Hohaia could be heading back to the NRL.

The Saints coach described Hohaia as “a player who can cover lots of key positions and play them well” and promised that the 30-year-old would play “a fair amount” of rugby for Saints this year.

Brown had earlier described his decision to leave the utility player out of his 17-man squad to play Warrington as heart-breaking.

In contrast with much of last season, Brown had been faced with a king-sized selection headache after the majority of his senior squad declared themselves fit for duty.

He said: “Lance can play in a number of positions and it breaks my heart not to play him as he deserves to be in the team.

“He is a terrific little player and a great bloke but it’s hard to find a spot for everyone.”

The vastly experienced Hohaia is equally at home playing full back, stand off, scrum half, or hooker, but with Jonny Lomax, Gary Wheeler, Luke Walsh and James Roby nailing down those positions, the way back for the New Zealander is blocked by some top-level performers.

Wheeler, in particular, has emerged from the shadows after two years of injury hell to stake a genuine claim for a regular first team spot and impressed against Warrington.

“He has worked hard in pre-season training and I think everyone would agree a fit Wheeler is a terrific player. We are just keeping our fingers crossed that his body holds up,” said Brown.

The coach went on: “Luke Walsh also had a good game and some of that was down to the good stuff from the forwards.

“Everyone can see what Walshy brings to the team which allows Jon Wilkin to return to his favoured second row spot. In addition, Luke’s style of play suits Wheels.

“Walsh is an on-the-ball number seven while Gary is more of a free spirit.

“Our young left edge struggled a little initially but Mark Percival really showed his qualities. He had a tough time early on, but re-adjusted at half-time and his second half was really good.

“He and Adam Swift were up against Ben Westwood, Chris Bridge and Joel Monaghan who are all class acts.”

g Saints prop Paul Clough has agreed a season-long loan move to Widnes Vikings.

Nathan Brown told how the close-season arrivals of Kyle Amor, Mose Masoe and Richard Beaumont would have limited Clough’s first-team chances, but described the long-serving prop, 26, as “a Super League player”.

He said: “Cloughie needs to play and has been a great servant to St Helens. With the emergence of Greg Richards and Anthony Walker, combined with what we’ve brought in, the front row is a spot we’ve got pretty well covered at the moment.

“He’s a good player, a good fella and I’m sure he will serve Widnes well. He’s sad to be leaving St Helens but is wrapped