Saints tee up Swinton game to assess roster strength

CHAMPIONS St Helens will kick-start their countdown to the new campaign – when they will bid for World Cup Challenge glory and a fifth successive Super League crown – with a work-out against Swinton.

The Championship newcomers will visit the Totally Wicked Stadium on Sunday (3pm), giving new Saints coach Paul Wellens the chance to assess the form of some shadow squad members.

Wellens is set to field a stronger side when Saints play host to another second-tier team, Widnes, in star centre Mark Percival’s testimonial on Friday week, January 27 (8pm).

Wellens, whose appointment to succeed Kristian Woolf, to whom he was assistant, was announced in October, will then lead the way to Australia.

Saints take on St George Illawarra Dragons at WIN Stadium (Wollongong Showground) on Saturday, February 11 before the eagerly-awaited big World Club Challenge meeting with Penrith Panthers at BlueBet Stadium seven days later.

The Penrith clash takes place on the same weekend as the start of Super League, so Saints, who would have faced Huddersfield at the Totally Wicked Stadium, will now start their title defence at Castleford on Sunday, February 26, with the Giants game yet to be rearranged.

The Swinton meeting forms part of the new dual-registration agreement between the clubs, of which Wellens said: “This will allow some of our players to get some valuable minutes with Swinton in a really strong competition.

“We will ensure those who get the opportunity to play will uphold the high standards we expect.

“Equally we value the importance of the Reserves competition and having the option to call upon Swinton for some of their players at key times as well as give their players some opportunities to play and train with us can only benefit both clubs.”

Swinton chief executive Steve Wild said: “I’d like to thank Saints for so readily agreeing to this game.

“It will form an integral part of our preparations for the season and our aim to establish ourselves in the Championship.

“We are looking forward to developing our dual-registration agreement for the mutual benefit of both clubs.”

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