‘New vibrance around the place’ - key St Helens duo already back in training ahead of 2023 season

Saints’ full complement of international players are not expected back until after Christmas.

<p>Alex Walmsley picked up a foot injury in August. Image: Gareth Copley/Getty Images</p>

Alex Walmsley picked up a foot injury in August. Image: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

St Helens may not yet have their full quota of players back in pre-season training but two welcome and familiar faces are champing at the bit to make up for lost time.

Half back Lewis Dodd and prop forward Alex Walmsley both suffered injuries in separate fixtures with the old enemy, Wigan Warriors, last season and could only sit on the side lines kicking their heels as Saints lifted their fourth successive Super League crown following a 24-12 victory over Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford.

Dodd, 20, suffered an Achilles problem which kept him out of all but 10 matches, while Walmsley’s foot injury in August proved worse than originally thought and curtailed his campaign.

Big Al - coming to the end of his testimonial year - said: "It has been a tough few weeks so far but I am glad to be back in training.

"We have had a similar kind of team during the past few years but it is great to get some fresh young faces on board which brings a new vibrance around the place."

The tough-as-teak Tyke also found time to thank everyone who had helped him run a successful benefit year.

He said: "Everyone from sponsors, officials, players, fans and the community have made me welcome since I moved from Batley in 2013. I now feel like an adopted son of St Helens."

New head coach Paul Wellens is not only pleased to see the England international forward raring to go but the return of 20-year-old Dodd who, if he had maintained his fitness, could arguably have been part of Shaun Wane’s England World Cup squad.

Both will be key components in the Saints’ squad next season and being part of the initial returning group will be valuable assets to the team-mates around them.

Wellens said: "Dodd and Walmsley know what it’s like to play first team rugby and they can pass on their experience to others when we train.

"We, as coaches, can only do so much on the practice pitch but the younger element can also learn a great deal from more knowledgeable players at training sessions."

The new St Helens boss is still awaiting his full complement of international players to return following the rigours of the World Cup and some are not expected back until after Christmas.

Then the real hard work starts!