How St Helens helped James Bell hit career best form: ‘We compliment each other really well’

Drew Darbyshire
James Bell St Helens Paul Wellens

St Helens coach Paul Wellens has praised in-form forward James Bell

St Helens coach Paul Wellens has sung the praises of in-form forward James Bell, who has been a shining light for the Super League champions this season.

Bell has impressed for Saints in the back-row and at loose forward this season, missing just one game in all competitions in 2023.

The Scotland international, who helped the Saints win the World Club Challenge earlier this year, is averaging 14 carries and 27 tackles per match in Super League this season.

Bell had an impressive first year with the club in 2022, but has seemingly kicked on to another level in the Red V this term.

“He was actually struggling with injury at the start of pre-season, he had a bit of a back problem and he was disappointed that he didn’t get to start pre-season in the right fashion but once he did get to work he made very rapid strides,” Wellens said when asked about how the club helped get the best out of Bell.

“With the way that Belly plays it is really important that he keeps on top of his fitness and he’s done a brilliant job of that all year because he likes to play the game with a real intensity and when he does play that way he adds a lot to us as a team both with and without the ball so he’s been a really important player for us throughout the year and we hope he can continue to that for the rest of the year.

“Every player is going to be important for us from here on in but I’m certainly very pleased with the way Belly approached 2023 but also the level of performances he has put in as well.”


‘We compliment each other really well’ – St Helens and James Bell made for one another

Auckland-born Bell came through the ranks at New Zealand Warriors, making two NRL appearances between 2017-18.

Bell, who has represented his Scottish heritage at the last two World Cups, made the move over to the northern hemisphere with Toulouse in 2019.

After an impressive stint, Bell made the switch to Leigh, impressing in Super League in 2021, catching the attention of champions St Helens.

Bell has excelled since repping the Red V and is currently enjoying career best form, with many people tipping him for a place in this year’s Super League Dream Team.

“I’m not sure he’s exceeded expectations, I think we always knew we were bringing in a high quality player,” Wellens added.

“But what he has done is learn to mould his game around the way we play and likewise, we’ve integrated his skillset into the way we play as well.

“I think we compliment each other really well, James likes to play the game tough and that’s what he hangs his hat on first and foremost, but what we’ve seen throughout the year is that he’s got a really acute skillset in terms of the way he can move the ball and the way he can move others into the game as well.

“We encourage him to do that when we can but also not overplaying at times because that can lead to bigger problems in itself, so where I think he’s improved is that he’s found the balance of when to play and when not to play and that comes off everything he does in terms of his attacking game but it also comes on the back of a work ethic in defence.”

READ NEXT: St Helens boss Paul Wellens on ‘exciting’ Tonga opportunity, working with Kristian Woolf again