Paul Wellens picks out St Helens prospect ‘similar to George Delaney’

ST HELENS coach Paul Wellens has praised two members of his squad at opposite ends of the experience scale.

Agnatius Paasi (32) and Noah Stephens (19) have both come into the first-team reckoning recently at St Helens – Paasi because he has returned from a long-term leg injury and Stephens because he has stepped up due to injury to other players – and Wellens is delighted with both.

Paasi suffered a serious knee and leg injury in last July’s Challenge Cup semi-final against Leigh and finally returned to action against Catalans at the end of May.

“Agnatius is doing really well, 15 to 20 minutes against Catalans and a lot more against London. The fact that there were a few tries in the latter game helped,” said Wellens.

“He’s done a brilliant job in terms of putting himself in the best position to come back and really deliver. He’s having a good impact on the games, although he still has a bit of a way to go in terms of getting up to match speed. But we are prepared to be patient with him.

“There are positive signs of what Agnatius can bring to the team,” he added.

“Because of how he was out for so long, having him back for these last few games has reminded us of what we had been missing. 

“That is that he’s a really good person who carries the ball strongly, with physicality, and who can offload the ball. He gives us what we have been missing, so it’s great to have it back.

“His knee is now absolutely fine. He is feeling no ill-effects and our medical team has done a wonderful job in helping Agnatius. But obviously his recovery is down to him, with rehab, the long hours, the early mornings, all the different things that it entails.

“But now he can just focus on the most important thing and that is playing well.”

Stephens made his debut from the bench against Castleford earlier in May and he has been involved in every game since then, after playing two games on dual-registration for Swinton in March.

“I’m delighted for him,” said Wellens.

“He’s worked well in pre-season. He’s been patient in waiting for an opportunity and the injury situation being what it is, he’s finally got that opportunity.

“But when opportunity comes, you have to grasp it and he has done exactly that. He is a great example for the other young players in the squad. Keep working hard and opportunities are potentially just around the corner. 

“He is very hard working and eager to learn and he hasn’t looked out of place at all in Super League. For a young front-rower he is similar to George Delaney and he’s done a very good job.

“The challenge for him is to keep his feet on the ground and keep working hard. It will get tougher and he’s got to be wise to that.

“We hope he is going to cement his spot and try to retain his place in the team. We believe he can add value to us for a long, long time. He is brilliant to work with.”

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