Wellens backs new coaching duo

Paul Wellens gees up the crowd after his 200th St Helens try
Paul Wellens gees up the crowd after his 200th St Helens try

PAUL Wellens believes long-serving duo Mike Rush and Keiron Cunningham are the right men to turn around the club’s fortunes.

Rush, 36, will put aside his duties as general manager to take charge of the team following the sacking of Royce Simmons and will be assisted by former captain Cunningham, 35, who is in his second season as club conditioner following his retirement as a player.

Both men are being thrown in at the deep end ahead of Sunday’s eagerly-anticipated Grand-Final re-match with in-form Leeds at Langtree Park but have received a ringing endorsement from Wellens.

“It’s always sad when a coach moves on, especially someone like Royce who is a really good fella,” Wellens told a news conference.

“But, from a player’s perspective, we need to move forward. We’ve got a tough game at the weekend and that’s where we’ve got to focus all our energies.

“Given the circumstances, I think it’s probably ideal that those two guys come in and take over the team.

“Both Mike and Keiron have been at the club a long time so when there is a bit of turmoil, like there has been over the last few days, we have two guys there who will quickly bring back some stability.”

Rush, who has worked for St Helens for more than 12 years largely in a development role, insists he is not interested in becoming Simmons’ long-term successor but Wellens believes the caretaker duo could find themselves in charge for the rest of the season.

“I think Mike is happy to do it on an interim basis,” Wellens added. “He loves the club. He’s had that many roles here, he’s always quick to help out in these situations.

“Even though Keiron is not an experienced coach, he’s got a great understanding and knowledge of the game.

“We’re prepared for it to be to the end of the season. It’s very difficult to bring new coaches in at the mid-point of the season.

“All the guys are aware of that and it’s something we don’t have a problem with. They all get on great with Mike and Keiron.”