St Helens coach backing key duo to make England World Cup squad

Kristian Woolf St Helens

St Helens coach Kristian Woolf is tipping Jack Welsby and Matty Lees to make England’s World Cup squad after the pair signed long-term deals.

Full-back Welsby, 21, has recently signed a new deal which will keep him at Saints until at least the end of the 2025 season.

And powerhouse prop Lees, 24, has signed a new three-year contract, with the option of a further year.

Speaking to Love Rugby League, Woolf said: “It is outstanding news for the club. It is really important for the club and the game over here as well.

“Guys like Matty Lees and Jack Welsby have got their best footy ahead of them. They have made a real impact in the competition over here and for our club that has had success.

“They are quite hot property when they are off-contract but they were certainly wanted by teams over here and in Australia.

“It is difficult and challenging environment at the moment over here and in Australia. There’s a new club (Dolphins) that comes in, in Australia that needs 36 new players and we are dealing with a salary cap which is a third of what the NRL is. It is a real challenge, particularly when you look at young plays like Jack and Matty.

“It means that we’ve got to make sure what we are offering them is really good and what they see is going to progress their careers and help them become the best they can become. To be able to keep them in the competition over here at our club is a real coup for our club and also the competition. It is something that we feel really proud to be able to do.”

St Helens boss backing homegrown duo for England honours

Welsby and Lees have yet to make their England senior debuts, but both were included in Shaun Wane’s first training squad of 2022.

They could make their first appearance in the clash with the Combined Nations All Stars later this month.

Woolf is backing his players to be in Wane’s plans come the end of the year.

He said: “I certainly would back them. They are high quality players and they’ve both had a big impact in the competition so far. They are only going to get better because they are both young.

“Look at Matty Lees as a front-rower. Most front-rowers don’t reach their peak until the back end of their 20s and even coming into their 30s like Alex Walmsley. Matty Lees has got a lot of growth and improvement and he is already an elite front-rower.

“Jack Welsby is one of the most influential players in the competition and he has just turned 21. He has already had such a massive impact on our team and the competition as a whole. I think it is really exciting for the club and the game over here.

“I’d certainly back both of those blokes to be in an England team. I’m obviously not selecting that team but I’d back them from what I see.”

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About Drew Darbyshire 8035 Articles
Love Rugby League Deputy Editor. Joined the site ahead of the 2017 World Cup and been a full-time reporter since 2018.

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