Paul Wellens passing on vast experience ahead of Wembley showdown

Five-times Challenge Cup winner Paul Wellens revealed on the eve of the 2021 final that his head coach, Kristian Woolf, had yet to decide on the 17 players who will be selected to face Castleford Tigers tomorrow (Saturday).

Friday, 16th July 2021, 1:32 pm
Updated Friday, 16th July 2021, 1:32 pm
Paul Wellens and St Helens coach Daniel Anderson celebrate after winning the  Challenge Cup Final in 2008
Paul Wellens and St Helens coach Daniel Anderson celebrate after winning the Challenge Cup Final in 2008

Most positions are already nailed down but one or two spots remain up for grabs - creating a dilemma I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Serial trophy winner Wellens, who is now assistant coach at the Totally Wicked Stadium, told the club newsline from their London hotel last night (Thursday): ''The boss has still a few things to sort out over selection.''

But at the same time, the former St Helens full back, who spent his entire playing career with his hometown club, is more than happy how the squad have prepared for their second final in the last few years.

The 41-year-old ex-England international said: ''The mood has been good all week. We've trained well and there has also been a relaxed atmosphere in the camp.''

He added: ''We are a team who have been involved in big games before and understand what they mean and hope this will help us in our quest.

''Skipper James Roby and Jonny Lomax know that and our Australian full back Lachlan Coote has won trophies on both sides of the world.''

Wellens, who made 495 appearance for Saints between 1998 and 2015, said: ''I know the emotions the lads are going through now from personal experience and if they need my help I'm here to listen.''

Wellens says St Helens have moved on from the loss of second rower Sione Mata’utia, who misses the final after picking up a one-match ban for a high tackle in last Friday’s game at Wakefield.

“We’re extremely disappointed for Sione,” Wellens said. “He’s been an integral part of the team this year and he was an integral part of us making it to the final.

“We did all we could to try and get that charge downgraded but sadly it wasn’t seen in the same light as we viewed it.

“Sione is naturally disappointed and we’re disappointed for him but that’s done now. In professional sport you have to deal with those things and we’ve moved on from that.

“Sione will be there cheering us on and, if we come away victorious, there will be nobody more pleased than him.”

It is 13 years ago since St Helens last won the prestigious piece of silverware after victory over Hull FC during the reign of Daniel Anderson but they fared far worse during the pre-Super League era, winning the 1976 final and not repeating the feat until summer rugby arrived in 1996.