St Helens coach Paul Wellens lauds ‘standout performer’ who is ‘a bit of a throwback’

Drew Darbyshire
Paul Wellens St Helens

Scotland star James Bell has been one of the ‘standout performers’ for St Helens this season, according to his club coach Paul Wellens.

Bell has impressed for the Super League champions this season, making 18 appearances, starting 12 of those.

The Scotland international, who has played at the last two World Cups, has also shown his utility value this season, being comfortable playing in the ball-playing loose forward role as well as in the back-row.

“I think he is a bit of a throwback in terms of he’s a kid who just loves playing,” Wellens told Love Rugby League.

“He’d play everyday if you let him and that’s really infectious and I love the way he goes about that.

“His attitude rubs off a lot on the players around him so I think he’s great for the likes of Louie (McCarthy-Scarsbrook) and Agnatius (Paasi) when they come off the bench together. I think they compliment each other really well.

“He’s got a great work ethic and I know how much the rest of the playing group value his contribution.

“He’s doing a great job through the middle when he plays at 13 and uses his skill really well but he’s also shown to great effect that he can do that on an edge as well as a back-rower.

“I couldn’t speak highly enough of Belly. I think he has been one of our standout performers throughout the course of this year.”

Paul Wellens praises the way James Bell has fit in to St Helens system

Auckland-born Bell came through the ranks at New Zealand Warriors, making his NRL debut in 2017.

The versatile forward would make two NRL appearances for the Warriors before heading to the Championship with Toulouse in 2019, spending two seasons in the south of France.

Bell made the move to England with Leigh in 2021, playing 20 games in Super League that season, before then linking up with champions Saints ahead of the 2022 campaign.

Wellens added: “When he came to the club I think initially he struggled to connect to our identity as a team and how he could use his skill set within our systems but what he has really nailed down this year is how to do that.

“Belly loves his rugby, so he wants to go out there, use his skill and we encourage him to do that. But first and foremost you get your effort areas right and invest hard in the defensive side of your game and when he does that the skill and the other side of his game comes on the back of it and that’s what he’s got right this year.

“He’s great to work with, particularly when he plays in that fashion.”

St Helens host Castleford Tigers at The Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday night, 8pm kick-off.

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