Dave Craven - Saints not sinners for resting key players for Broncos match

IMAGINE being one of those nine St Helens players essentially being told they are not good enough to play against London Broncos tomorrow.

St Helens head coach Justin Holbrook.

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That’s not the message from their own coaching staff. Indeed, if it was, they could perhaps deal with that.

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But it is, indirectly, what is being said by all those whinging about head coach Justin Holbrook’s decision to make nine changes to his 19-man squad for the trip to Ealing.

It has caused outrage for some because it has drastically increased the chances of a win for relegation-threatened London, who are currently two points adrift at the bottom of the table with seven games to go.

Many people will say it’s a disgrace that Holbrook can be so casual about matters, making such sweeping changes whereby up to four teenagers could debut and nine fully-fledged internationals are all left out.

But that’s utter nonsense. Prolific leaders Saints are 10 points clear of second-placed Warrington Wolves; they have earned the right to rest whoever they want.

Moreover, they do not even need to earn a right; Holbrook has a squad of 25 first-team players as well as a clearly talented academy squad and, from those squads, he can choose whoever he wants whenever he wants.

Granted, it is unfortunate for the likes of Hull KR, Huddersfield Giants, Leeds Rhinos and perhaps – given their alarming lack of form – Wakefield Trinity who are all scrapping for points at the wrong end of the table.

But tough. It is due to their own deficiencies that they are in that invidious position and, if they were astride at the top like Saints, their respective coaches would all no doubt make a similar decision to Holbrook.

The Merseyside club has a Challenge Cup semi-final against Halifax a week from now.

Clearly, they are not resting England stars Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Mark Percival, Alex Walmsley, James Roby and Luke Thompson along with Kevin Naiqama, Theo Fages and Lachlan Coote, because they necessarily fear the Championship part-timers.

Obviously, they respect them and will want to have their big guns fresh for that action in Bolton especially as, in the last three weeks, they have just played difficult opponents sitting second, third and fourth in the table. But, if things go according to plan, Holbrook also acknowledges this could be the only weekend he gets to rest any of those star players between now and the rest of the season.

Nine other Super League clubs will be getting a rest next week. Holbrook is merely being savvy.They missed out on both trophies last year after falling in crunch games and he will be doing everything possible to ensure that does not happen again,

The last time he rested such a bulk of players, ironically on their last visit to Ealing last month, they did come unstuck, losing to London 23-22.

The Australian will be mindful of that but, with players of the ilk of Danny Richardson, Adam Swift and Joseph Paulo called up, he is hardly going in firing blanks.

Seventeen year-old half-back Lewis Dodd, young hooker Josh Eaves, loose forward Callum Hazzard and centre Josh Simm, grandson of Saints legend Geoff Pimblett, are those hoping to make their senior bows.

Good luck to them all if they do get on. They deserve to be there no matter what anyone says.