New head coach Paul Wellens confident St Helens can make improvements

New head coach Paul Wellens confident St Helens can make improvements

Paul Wellens is confident that St Helens can get even better after being named as their new head coach.

Saints on Wednesday announced Wellens was to succeed Kristian Woolf – under whom he had been working as assistant – on a two-year deal, with an option to extend by a further year.

The club last month won the Grand Final for a record fourth-successive time and third in a row under Australian Woolf.

Wellens, who spent his entire 17-year playing career with Saints and has been on their coaching staff since 2015, told a press conference he was “immensely proud” to take up his new role.

And the 42-year-old said: “It’s certainly going to be tougher, not just for me but for everybody within the organisation, because our competitors, our closest rivals, continue to strive to improve.

“Sometimes what can happen when you do win a lot is that complacency can set in. So as long as we’re aware of that as an organisation, then we continue to try to find those improvements – and I certainly believe that we do have improvement in us as a team.

“We’ve got to be prepared as an organisation, not just myself as a coach but the support staff, the players, that we want to get better.

“Where we’re at at the moment as a club is a fantastic position. I’m immensely proud of what the group’s achieved and what Kristian did while he was here. But at the same time, I see that we can get better.

“I can see that there’s a group of players who think we can and I think that’s what really excites me about taking up this opportunity – to work with a group of players who are determined to improve is fantastic for me.”

France boss Laurent Frayssinous is to join as an assistant coach ahead of the 2023 Super League season, and Wellens said: “One of things he’ll be tasked with is to look where he can develop our attack. I think we have got improvements there.

“We’re a team that have a lot of very strong ball carriers, which works to our advantage a lot of the time, but then sometimes you do need a Plan B and Laurent will come in with some fresh ideas there which I think can help evolve our performances in that respect.”

Wellens spent his entire playing career with St Helens before joining the coaching staff in 2015 (Lynne Cameron/PA).
Wellens spent his entire playing career with St Helens before joining the coaching staff in 2015 (Lynne Cameron/PA)

He added: “When I’ve listened to other coaches speak about this group of players, they quite often refer to us as the benchmark, so they will be probably looking at us moreso than any other club (in terms) of the level they need to get to.

“So it’s up to us to stay ahead of that. They’ll be looking at how they can stop this St Helens side, so us having different ways of doing things may just help us stay ahead of the pack.”

Wellens confirmed he would not be continuing on England’s coaching staff during the World Cup that starts this month, saying: “I was really excited about the opportunity to be involved, but I think the most important thing is that I’m committing to this role wholeheartedly, 100 per cent.

“I’ve been in dialogue with (England boss) Shaun Wane about the possibility of this happening, he’s been really good, very understanding of the situation and I can’t thank him enough really for his support. I’m going to miss being involved, however I feel it was the right decision.”

England Knights head coach Paul Anderson is now to join Wane’s coaching staff ahead of the World Cup.

Wellens also said he believed Saints were “in discussions” over a possible World Club Challenge clash with Australian champions Penrith Panthers next year.

“Certainly from a coach and player perspective, it would be a fantastic opportunity to take on Penrith – what a team they are,” Wellens said. “This team have earned an opportunity to take on that challenge.”