St Helens

It’s hard to look past last season’s champions in 2007, with St Helens replacing quality with quality and maintaining consistency in key positions.

The blow of losing Jamie Lyon has been softened by the arrival of Matt Gidley, who will no doubt prove there is life after arguably the best player to have graced Super League in recent times.

The only other change in the squad sees Bryn Hargreaves replace the retired Paul Anderson. Other than that, Saints have kept the same world class selection of players that coach Daniel Anderson had at his disposal in 2006, a year when the side from Knowsley Road swept all before them, as well as winning the BBC Sports Personality Team of the Year accolade.

In fact the only thing that counts against Saints is the increased quality of the competition. Wigan will become an irritant for the top sides again under the leadership of Brian Noble, Hull have strengthened in time for Peter Sharp’s first full season in charge and Warrington could well make the step up and challenge with the big boys.

But with a half back partnership that orchestrated a famous victory over Australia in the winter, before the Tri Nations turned sour, a full back who won the Man of Steel last season and a hooker who has always been regarded as one of the world’s best, the core of Saints’ team is by far the strongest in the league, and will be for many a year.

They won’t lose many, and they will top the premiership come September. But if they have an off day in the play-offs, then someone else may sneak their noses in and snatch the title, but on paper and judging on past performances, you’d be a fool to back against the mighty Saints.

Prediction: 1st – there’s no where else to put them.

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