Jonny Lomax returns as Saints include young guns for visit to Salford
Head coach Kristian Woolf has thrown down the gauntlet to four of his young guns ahead of Friday's Betfred Super League clash against the Salford Red Devils at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Academy prospects, Jonathan Bennison, Shay Martyn, Taylor Pemberton and Reece Sumner are all included in a 20-man Saints' squad but whether any make the final 17 is a matter of conjecture.
Whatever the outcome, it will be valuable experience for the quartet.
Full back Bennison from West Bank Bears and Thatto Heath Crusaders has scored seven tries in eight Academy matches this season and is named alongside Thatto Heath winger Martyn who has scored six times and kicked 42 goals for Derek Traynor’s U19s this season.
Leigh East hooker Pemberton is also included. He has played eight times this year for the U19s, while second rower Sumner from Blackrod is another to be named. He has bagged four tries in nine matches for the Academy.
Lachlan Coote is suspended so he drops out as does Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, James Roby, Morgan Knowles and Joe Batchelor.
Mark Percival will sit this one out, too, after a heavy knock to the head against Leeds, while Sione Mata’utia is also out due to an ankle injury he picked up in the same match. Both should return for the semi-finals.
Agnatius Paasi, like Coote, serves the final game of his suspension,while James Bentley is recovering from an injury picked up against Catalans.
But the good news is that Jonny Lomax and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook are fit to resume.
Squad: 5. Regan Grace, 6. Jonny Lomax, 8. Alex Walmsley, 10. Matty Lees, 11. Joel Thompson, 15. LMS, 16. Kyle Amor, 18. Jack Welsby, 19, Aaron Smith, 21. Lewis Dodd, 22. Josh Simm, 23, Jake Wingfield, 24, Josh Eaves, 25, Dan Norman, 29. Ben Davies, 30. Sam Royle, 31. Jonathan Bennison, 32. Shay Martyn, 33. Taylor Pemberton, 34. Reece Sumner.
Saints have won on their last three visits to Salford and they will be hoping to bring down the curtain on the regular Betfred Super League season in style.
The Red Devils' last home victory against the defending champions was a 22-14 triumph on March 30, 2017, and they will be keen to buck the trend, especially head coach Richard Marshall, former assistant to Woolf at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
The 45-year-old Warrington-born coach will want to put into practice what he learned in his short stay at St Helens, describing it as a 'wonderful club and one I have a great respect for.'
It would, however, be something of a surprise if Salford - 11th in the 12-strong table - turned the formbook inside out judging by their past record against rivals from the other end of the East Lancs Road.
Last 10 meetings:
St Helens 28, Salford 0 (SLR6, 17/5/21)
St Helens 29, Salford 6 (SLR1, 26/3/21)
(at Emerald Headingley, Leeds)
Salford 12, St Helens 10 (SLR18, 26/10/20)
(at Emerald Headingley, Leeds)
St Helens 48, Salford 8 (SLR1, 31/1/20)
Salford 6, St Helens 23 (SLGF, 12/10/19)
(at Old Trafford, Manchester)
St Helens 32, Salford 30 (SLR15, 17/5/19)
Salford 4, St Helens 26 (SLR4, 28/2/19)
Salford 10, St Helens 60 (SLR13, 26/4/18)
St Helens 34, Salford 2 (SLR4, 4/3/18)
Salford 4, St Helens 30 (SLS8-R7, 21/9/17)
Super League summary
Salford won 7
St Helens won 44 (including 2019 Grand Final)
Salford highest score: 44-10 (h, 2016 and also widest margin)
St Helens highest score: 66-16 (h, 2001). Widest margin: 58-4, a, 2000)