Predicting likely St Helens line-up for Wigan Warriors derby with Lewis Dodd dilemma

Aaron Bower
Waqa Blake St Helens Alamy

Waqa Blake (centre) celebrates a try with his St Helens teammates James Bell (left) and Matty Lees (right)

It’s safe to say that, for the first time in a long time, St Helens go into a Wigan Warriors derby as enormous underdogs on Friday evening.

Wigan have had the edge over the Saints in the past 18 months or so when it comes to favourites going into rugby league’s biggest derby, but the odds feel significantly stacked against Paul Wellens’ side on Friday evening.

They are without a whole heap of first-team players due to injuries and suspensions – with over a third of their salary cap likely to be sat in the stands on Friday as they face the reigning Super League and world champions.

Here’s a look at how the Saints could well line up – and what decisions Paul Wellens may have to make as they look to avoid a third straight defeat.

Bizarrely, almost half of the starting line-up seems to pick itself, in a way. Jack Welsby is likely to start at fullback: but there are left-field options in terms of youngster Harry Robertson, who could go in at fullback and allow Welsby to go into the halves.

The Saints could also leave Lewis Dodd out in favour of another youngster, Will Roberts – and Dodd is their biggest issue of them all. Club legend Paul Sculthorpe admitted this week that the Souths-bound half-back may need taking out of the firing line, and it’s a huge dilemma for Wellens to ponder.

Handing a youngster a debut away at Wigan is a bold call – but moving Welsby into seven feels like the logical move for this week. It would mean Robertson starting at fullback, in an extraordinary story.

Tee Ritson is another who could be under threat. You would expect Ben Davies to come in at centre there, with Waqa Blake going out onto the wing.

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The starting front-row seems obvious: Matty Lees, Daryl Clark and George Delaney. Curtis Sironen and Sam Royle are likely to start in the back row, with James Bell continuing at 13 in the absence of Morgan Knowles, still.

That leaves the bench – and where things do get slightly tricky. With so many youngsters drafted into the 21-man squad, some are going to have to play.

Noah Stephens feels like a probable inclusion – as does young hooker Jake Burns, who will provide cover and an opportunity for Clark to take a breather. Again though, throwing a youngster in on debut away at Wigan is a monumental call for Wellens to make. In this instance though, he may have no choice.

Fortunately, the Saints do have Agnatius Paasi to provide some fire-power off the bench – and the final spot is likely to go to Jonny Vaughan.

That would mean Dodd, Leon Cowen, Roberts and Ritson being the four who miss out.

Possible St Helens line-up: Harry Robertson, Waqa Blake, Ben Davies, Mark Percival, Jon Bennison, Jonny Lomax, Jack Welsby, Matty Lees, Daryl Clark, George Delaney, Curtis Sironen, Sam Royle, James Bell. Interchange: Jake Burns, Agnatius Paasi, Jonny Vaughan, Noah Stephens.

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