St Helens will give Lewis Dodd and Jack Welsby opportunity to stake their claim

St Helens coach Kristian Woolf will pin his faith in youngsters Lewis Dodd and Jack Welsby in 2022 after confirming the champions will not sign any replacements for outgoing duo Theo Fages and Lachlan Coote.

Friday, 30th July 2021, 9:13 am
Updated Friday, 30th July 2021, 9:16 am
Lewis Dodd

Full-back Coote has signed a two-year contract with Hull KR after rejecting the offer of a new deal with Saints while scrum-half Fages is also out of contract and is expected to move to Huddersfield.

Woolf, who has confirmed he will stay on at the Totally Wicked Stadium for a third season in 2022, has announced utility back Welsby, 20, will be given Coote’s number one jersey while Dodd, 19, is earmarked for the number seven role.

Welsby scored the match-winning try from centre in November’s Grand Final and turned the recent Challenge Cup final against Castleford in his side’s favour with masterful second-half performance as a half-back but will be given a chance by Woolf to become the team’s full-back for the next decade.

“We would have loved Lachlan to stay around just a little bit longer but he’s got to look after his family and the offer he got from Hull KR was much greater than one we could give him,” said Woolf.

“We’re not going to sign another full-back, we’re going to give Jack Welsby first crack at that to make that position his own.

“We’ve seen Jack’s talent over the last 18 months, he’s played almost every position except front row and, whatever role we’ve given him, he’s made a knack of making it work.

“His worth ethic and drive makes him exactly the type of player we want at Saints. We think he deserves first crack at full-back next year.”

Dodd, a specialist scrum-half who like Welsby has come through the club’s academy, will play out the rest of the season in Super League after Fages broke his shoulder at Wembley and is set to keep the job for the foreseeable future.

“Theo hasn’t come out and made his intentions clear yet,” Woolf said. “We’re not going to be signing other halves to come into the group and, if things don’t work out with Theo, we have every confidence that Lewis can step in and make that position his own.

“We see him as a real big part of the future. He can lead the club for the next 10 or 12 years. We certainly won’t be signing anybody above him that might affect his development.

“He’s an outstanding kid with how he wants to learn and work hard and I know he’s going to make the most of his opportunity. He’s right up to the task.”

After leading Saints to a successful league title defence in his first season and then masterminding a first Challenge Cup triumph in 13 years, Saints’ decision to take up the option on the 46-year-old Woolf’s services for 2022 was always a formality.

Woolf, who joined the club from Newcastle Knights as the successor to Justin Holbrook, said: “I’m delighted to have the opportunity to stay on for another year at this great club.

“I love working with the group and they are an exceptional group of men. They work hard and their desire to win is great to be a part of.”

Meanwhile, Woolf says he will be without several players for the trip to Hull on Monday with “nine or 10” members of his playing and backroom squad still affected by the outbreak of Covid-19 that forced the postponement of their last two fixtures.

Woolf says his team could also be under-strength for the table-topping clash with Catalans Dragons on Saturday week.