SAINTS star Jon Wilkin says he and his teammates are ready to “rip” into arch-rivals Wigan in the big derby game on Monday night.
The versatile 29-year-old, who has been picked at half-back in recent weeks, also told of the players’ desire to get Langtree Park rocking and put down a marker for the rest of the year.
He said: “If there are any positives to being out of the cup it’s the fact you get a lot of preparation time. We’ve had a good opportunity to freshen up and leave no stone unturned in our preparations. It’s great timing for us.
“I don’t like having weeks off - my heart sinks every time I watch a Challenge Cup game and we’re not involved.
“But we’re going to rip into this game - let’s make no bones about it. We’re going to rip into them. It’s always a physical, bruising game and it’s not lost on the players how important the derby is for the community either.
“It helps us that the league doesn’t matter on derby day too - the fans will just want to see us win.”
Wilkin also told of the need to “reconnect” the team, the fans and the ground following the toxic atmosphere created in the stands during the home defeat against Hull KR last month.
He cited injuries, the lack of an out-and-out half-back, poor performances and “anxiety” on the terraces as reasons for Saints’ patchy home form so far this season.
“We thought we’d cracked it when we beat Leeds at Langtree Park last season,” he said.
“We were absolutely buzzing that night and the fans were so loud that the hairs were standing up on the back of my neck.
“But we’re going to bring the intensity on Monday night and it would be great for the fans to make it an intimidating atmosphere for Wigan.
“Langtree Park is our home. But at times this season the players have picked up on an anxiety in the stands. Turning this place into an intimidating place for other teams to play has got to be a priority.
“We’ve not started well enough in enough games so far this year so we need to have a good first 10 or 20 minutes to set us up for a big performance.”
Wilkin also told how he is enjoying the challenge of filling in at half-back - despite it limiting his chances of making England’s World Cup squad.
He added: “At half-back, a big part of my role is organise the team, move them around the field and bring the likes of Willie Manu into the game.
“I seem to have gone from a guy who can pass and kick and run a bit to a guy who has to understand all the technical subtleties of playing at half-back.”