James Roby on Paul Wellens’ start as St Helens head coach

PAUL WELLENS has “slotted in perfectly” as a head coach, according to St Helens captain James Roby.

The pair are both one-club men and played together for over a decade, from Roby’s debut in 2004 to Wellens’ retirement in 2015.

In the time since, Wellens has climbed the coaching ranks at Saints while Roby has assumed the captaincy previously held by the fullback.

After leading the club to four consecutive Super League titles, 37-year-old Roby has committed to at least another season at St Helens, giving him the opportunity to play under Wellens.

“I knew Paul as a team-mate and a friend first, but he’s been in this coaching role for about seven years and now as head coach,” said Roby of the rookie boss, who has succeeded Kristian Woolf.

“Some might see it as a bit irregular or different but I see it as a real strength. The relationship that Paul and I have and the relationship that other senior players who have played with him have is a great strength of our club. 

“He’s taken to it fantastically, just as we knew he would. Paul drives the standards at this place and he’s been here longer than any of us. He knows what we’re about more than anybody. 

“Just look at what he’s done as a player. The young lads who might not have played with him still know what he’s about and what he’s achieved in his career. Everyone has the utmost respect for Paul.

“From a coaching point of view he’s slotted right in perfectly.”

Wellens’ first two competitive games will be no easy task – Saints will take on St George Illawarra Dragons at Wollongong before the World Club Challenge against Penrith Panthers at PointsBet Stadium on 18 February.

Roby won the World Club Challenge in 2007, when Saints edged out Brisbane Broncos in Bolton, with Wellens a team-mate that day as well as being part of the 2001 winners.

Former England skipper Roby is relishing the chance for Saints to show what they can do against a Penrith side that has won the NRL in the past two seasons.

“I’s a great reward for us as a group, and a great opportunity for us as well to go to Australia,” he said.

“Normally, you only get the chance when you play internationals, so to have the chance to go down there and take on the best team in Australia will be a really good challenge and one that we’re looking forward to. 

“We’re confident in our ability. We’ll give (Penrith) all the respect that they deserve. 

“We know that they’re a great team, they’ve won (the NRL) back-to-back, but likewise we’ve won four years in a row and we know what we’re capable of too.”