Justin Holbrook: Alex Walmsley will be big miss

St Helens coach Justin Holbrook said it is a shame that Alex Walmsley will not get to play again this year.

The England international has been ruled out for the rest of the season after he fractured a bone in his neck in St Helens’ win over Warrington Wolves in March.

Saints expected Walmsley to return to action before the end of the season, but the specialists advised for him not to take to the field until next year.

He said: “Unfortunately for Al, he won’t be back this year.

“All along we thought he would be back this year and we planned on it. He was working really hard on getting to make this year.

“All the signs are good in his neck. He’s lifting weights heavier than ever, he’s running fine but unfortunately the scans show the bone regrowth that the surgeon wanted to see more of is not enough to play rugby league in the next few weeks.

“I think by November he’ll be 100% and he will only miss the season by a few weeks, but we play brutal games and it’s not worth taking the risk.

“He will be 100% next year and the surgeon said at the start that his neck will be stronger than ever which is great news. It’s just disappointing for him and our club that he won’t return this year but for the long-term future of Al and the club, he will be right for next year.”

Saints face old rivals Wigan Warriors in the Super 8s at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday, and a win would see Saints clinch the League Leaders’ Shield.

Holbrook hopes his side can win the shield against enemies Wigan.

He said: “We are both great clubs and both strong sides sitting in first and second, so it’s going to be a massive game.

“The derby is one both clubs look forward to. It means more than any other game and it means a lot to people in the town.

“It would be great to get the recognition for being the most consistent side over 30 rounds if we are good enough to win, but Wigan are a great side and we know that.

“We’ve had two great games against them this year and this Friday will be another one.”

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