St Helens issues frank statement after quadruple injury blow in Challenge Cup loss

St Helens suffered four injuries in their Challenge Cup semi-final loss to Leigh Leopards.
St Helens’ Alex Walmsley suffered an injury in the loss to Leigh Leopards. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty ImagesSt Helens’ Alex Walmsley suffered an injury in the loss to Leigh Leopards. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images
St Helens’ Alex Walmsley suffered an injury in the loss to Leigh Leopards. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images

SAINTS' furious boss Paul Wellens has fired a verbal broadside at the RL's top brass in the aftermath of Saturday's Challenge Cup semi-final defeat at the hands of neighbours Leigh Leopards, demanding better protection for players.

The trophy favourites, who were left fuming by the tackling stint of Leigh skipper John Asiata in a no-nonsense battle-scarred showdown, made their feelings known in a carefully prepared club statement at Tuesday's weekly press conference.

Wellens said: "As a sport, we bang the player welfare drum a fair bit, and have made a lot of strides in recent times to protect them because ultimately we have a duty of care but at the weekend the governing body failed in its duty.''

Four St Helens players, Alex Walmsley, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Agnatius Passi and Morgan Knowles, all picked up long or short term injuries and with Sione Mata'utia subsequently handed a two-match ban by the Disciplinary Panel for a Grade C high tackle in the same encounter, Saints will go into Friday's home fixture against Leeds Rhinos short of experienced.

Wellens added: “I think it's important to consider here that this isn't an emotional response to losing a cup tie. I congratulate Leigh wholeheartedly for the way they played on the weekend and wish them well in the final in a few weeks' time.

"What we've got to consider, when we're making decisions not to charge players like Asiata who are tackling in that manner, is that we give the green light at all levels, but if that's the type of tackle we're allowing in our sport, then maybe Rugby League is a game I don't want my young son to play anymore."

He went on: "For me, this has been an accident waiting to happen. And this is why, in my opinion, the RFL and the match review panel are culpable because they've had numerous opportunities to influence the way he tackles and to stop him doing it - and they've failed to do that. We have a responsibility as a wider game. This isn't a St Helens v Leigh thing, we need to clean our sport up and make it safe to play.

"And when we look at incidents like that and deem them legal, and not anything to charge on, then I have a real problem with it because ultimately as it's gone to show at the weekend tackling in that manner has serious consequences.

“The reason I’m speaking so passionately is I believe in a cleaner game and a cleaner future for our sport. And what happened at the weekend doesn’t tie into that at all."

Wellens said: "I’ve spoken to numerous people involved in the game over the last couple of days and not one of them said that it was a fair tackling technique. Quite frankly, I found it horrific. What we’ve effectively done by not charging him is told thousands of people who play Rugby League up and down the country every weekend on all different levels, that the tackling technique is OK.

“I’m sure that within the RFL match review panel they know that is not OK. They had an opportunity to make a strong decision and took a weak one.

“In doing so, they have potentially put thousands of players up and down the country at risk. I would implore everyone involved in the game at all levels not to teach or allow your players to tackle in that manner because as we’ve seen at the weekend the outcomes can be quite severe.

“But as a group we’ll move forward, we’ll galvanise, we’ll pull together. We’ve got players who will come into the team and compete as hard as they can to try and make us successful. That’s our challenge now."

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