St Helens half-back Theo Fages will be rested for Friday’s trip to Wakefield with Wembley in mind, coach Kristian Woolf has confirmed.
The 26-year-old Frenchman will lose his ever-present record for Saints on Friday when they travel to Wakefield, having played 80 minutes every game so far this campaign.
Reigning Super League champions St Helens target their first piece of silverware in 2021 on Saturday week when they take on Castleford in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley.
And with one eye on the Cup final, Woolf confirmed that Fages will be rested for this week’s trip to Wakefield.
He said: “He’s played 80 minutes every week. He’s a little bit bumped and bruised at the moment so it’s a good opportunity to give him a bit of a break and make sure he’s fresh and ready to go for the Challenge Cup.”
Woolf says prop Matty Lees will have an opportunity this week to secure one of two spots still open in his Challenge Cup final team.
Lees has not played since breaking an ankle in Saints’ 26-18 opening-round Cup win over Leeds in April but will make his comeback with the incentive of knowing he can clinch a Wembley appearance, two years after missing out against Warrington due to a perforated bowel.
Woolf said: “There’s a couple of spots open this weekend.
“There’s a bit of jostling going on and for a couple of blokes there’s a real opportunity to either cement a position for next week or push their way into the squad.”
Lees, 23, stepped up following Luke Thompson’s move to the NRL midway through 2020 and, fully fit, would be an automatic starter in Woolf’s team.
Woolf added: “He’s going to be on shortened minutes this week but it’s great to be able to give him an opportunity to get back on the field.
“We were really happy with how he was going before he got injured and he’s worked really hard to put himself in this position.
“The one thing we don’t want to do is put too much pressure on him straight away. He’s had quite a significant injury and a long period out. We’re not expecting him to be at his best or where he was when he was in round three.
“He’s a tough bloke who runs really hard and direct and challenges blokes to put themselves in front of him. He does the same when he hasn’t got the ball.
“He enjoys the contact, he works really hard and defends really well. If he can do those couple of simple things really well, he gives himself a chance of playing next week.
“We know what sort of character he is and we know that he’s the type of bloke you want in a big game. But we need to know what level he’s going to be at first.”
England centre Mark Percival made a successful return from a catalogue of hamstring issues in Sunday’s 24-6 win over Wigan and, with Lees and second rower Joel Thompson back this week, it leaves James Bentley as the only injury absentee for the Saints.