The Garry Schofield Column: Paul Wellens is ready to take on St Helens job

It’s no surprise that St Helens have gone for Paul Wellens as their new coach in succession to the all-conquering Kristian Woolf.

I’m pleased to see him get the nod and the club promote from within, and no one can argue that he hasn’t served his apprenticeship.

Paul, of course, moved into the coaching set-up at Saints after calling time on a glittering playing career there in 2015.

While Keiron Cunningham’s coaching rein might not have worked out, Paul will still have picked up valuable experience and pointers from looking on.

Sometimes it’s about learning what doesn’t work as well as what does, after all.

The two who have followed Keiron – Justin Holbrook and Kristian Woolf – must surely have set a good example to Paul in his role as an assistant coach.

Maybe Keiron tried to change too much and, from what I recall, the style of play wasn’t quite the same as it had been.

Having seen the methods and tactical approach of Holbrook and Woolf bring those celebrated four straight Super League titles, you’d suspect Paul will pursue a policy more of evolution than revolution.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, as the old saying goes, and looking in from the outside Saints don’t seem to be doing too much wrong.

As I’ve said before, they do have a habit of thinking they can turn the tap on and off, which can be dangerous, although they’ve also usually had the knack of coming good at the crucial times.

Of course there is a chance of things going stale, and Paul won’t want to slavishly copy everything done before.

Even the best methods need to be refreshed from time to time, and it was interesting to read Woolf’s comments about Paul being willing to challenge him on certain things.

He’s certainly got his predecessor’s backing, and while he is under pressure to bring further success, and do that by playing an attractive brand of rugby, I think Saints’ decision to bring in Laurent Frayssinous as one of Paul’s assistants, with Ian Talbot keeping his current role, is a really good one.

He has a lot of experience from coaching both Catalans Dragons and France, and Saints will certainly have done their due diligence before making that appointment.

I think he’ll be a valuable bloke to call on and bounce ideas off, just as Paul will have been for Woolf, who will now become an assistant to Wayne Bennett as Dolphins enter the NRL.

I’ll be watching events both at St Helens and in Queensland closely.

Paul has pulled out of his assistant coaching duties with England at the World Cup.

That will have been a tough old decision, but it shows his commitment to ensuring a smooth transition when Saints start pre-season training. He’ll want to be ready to hit the ground running. 

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