St Helens boss Paul Wellens has called on his side to evolve from relying on captain James Roby, with the legendary hooker having featured from the bench in Thursday’s 34-6 defeat to Hull.
Roby, 37, will hang up the boots at the end of the current Super League campaign – but is still showing his class form at the Saints in his 20th season with the club.
The ex-England and Great Britain international was introduced at half-time at the MKM Stadium, with coach Wellens having opted to start Morgan Knowles at hooker, naming Joey Lussick as 18th man.
However, the reigning champions failed to back up last Saturday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final victory over the Black and Whites, falling to a 34-6 defeat in Round 16.
It saw Tony Smith claim his seventh win as Hull’s head coach, promoting them to eighth place on the Super League table over Rohan Smith’s Leeds Rhinos.
Wellens has urged his side to get more familiar to playing without legend Roby, who became the club’s all-time appearance record holder earlier in May.
St Helens must evolve says Paul Wellens
“What this team has got to do is get used to doing is playing without James Roby,” Wellens told Jenna Brooks on Sky Sports.
“He isn’t going to go around forever. And what we do every week, as a 37-year-old, is roll him out there and expect him to play 70 or 80 minutes in the middle.
“We have to evolve as a team and move forward.
“I thought bringing him off the bench and using Morgan’s defence in the middle early on might help us. I don’t think it was anything down to Morgan being there why we played poorly.”
Hull dominated most of the fixture live on Sky Sports, opening the scoring early through returning half-back Jake Clifford, who missed last Saturday’s clash due to concussion protocols.
He was joined on the scoresheet by captain Carlos Tuimavave, Jake Trueman, Chris Satae, Cameron Scott and Darnell McIntosh.
“It was very unlike us,” Wellens admitted.
“We dropped way below our standards. Before the game I was pretty confident that we handled the short turnaround and handled backing up what was an emotional game on the weekend.
“But we were just way short.
“We were ill-disciplined at times and coughed up way too much possession.
“As a collective, we just weren’t where we needed to be.”