Saints’ golden boy Ben Barba can expect some ‘special treatment’ in Sunday’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter final showdown against holders Hull FC if the words of their head coach Lee Radford ring true.
Radford, who is hoping to steer the Airlie Birds into the semi-final of the competition and another victory at Wembley to equal their rivals’ hat-trick of Challenge Cup wins in the summer era, said: “Barba is an easier player to face when he is down at the St Helens end of the field than in your own half, that’s for sure.
“He is a skilful player and at this moment in time everything is going his way. Ultimately, we have to make it a horrible afternoon for him and to do that you have to defend really physically and right on the cusp of legality. We have got to be aggressive and in his face.”
But challenges of this nature are nothing knew to the 28-year-old Australian who has been confronted with similar situations all season - and on the majority of occasion has emerged with flying colours.
In any event, if the Humbersiders target Barba too much, Saints have other players who can exploit any space in a devastating manner as their scoring record this season indicates.
Head coach Justin Holbrook will, however, not be taking anything for granted and insists that any club winning the coveted trophy two seasons in succession has been able to produce something special when it mattered.
“It will be a tough game for us and despite the fact that Hull will be without a number of regular first team players, they will still field a strong-looking side which possesses a powerful pack, a smart hooker in Danny Houghton and a strong back division.”
Saints’ cup runs have been few and far between in recent years - and Holbrook was quickly reminded of it when he took over the coaching reins.
He said: “I knew as soon as I joined the club midway through the 2017 campaign that it was nearly 10 years since the club had been to Wembley and It was something we spoke about as a group at the start of pre-season. We are aware of it, but we also know there is still a long way to go.
“You have to acknowledge that it does mean more, but you also want to play the same as in other games.”
Holbrook added: “We’ve had the luxury of a longer turnaround for this game (nine days) and instead of cramming everything into the players, we had the chance to start the week slower and build up gradually, which I think the players have all enjoyed.”