St Helens boss Paul Wellens and his players will be guarding against potential party-poopers Leeds Rhinos spoiling the homecoming celebrations of the newly-crowned World Club Challenge champions when the two clubs meet at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday night.
The Betfred Super League title holders are expecting a near full house for a repeat of last year’s Grand Final against the Loiners following their dramatic golden-point win over NRL champions Penrith Panthers in Australia two weeks ago and want to produce a dazzling display on what will be a special and memorable night in every sense of the word - if the result goes the right way.
Captain James Roby, who misses out again through injury, will take the trophy on a tour of the stadium at half-time, but Wellens is conscious the carnival atmosphere must not be allowed to detract from the task in hand.
“We are in a bit of an unusual situation where the club has won a major honour in the first game of the season,” said Wellens, who is demanding his players don’t allow complacency to set in after their recent exploits .
“The supporters can sing, dance, clap and cheer as much as they want – but from us as a playing group it is about keeping consistency and performing well, week in week out because that is what our success has been built off in recent years.”
Saints shrugged off the jet lag with a 24-6 win at Castleford last Sunday, and Wellens acknowledged it is too soon to say whether the effects of their hectic pre-season schedule could linger.
In the Rhinos, they face a side struggling to get back into the groove following their dismal opening defeat at Warrington with a close-run 22-18 loss to Hull FC at Headingley last Friday night.
But while comparisons are inevitably drawn to his side’s desperate start last season that left them teetering on the brink of the relegation zone, Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith is adamant there is no cause for alarm.
He said: "You’d expect St Helens to be chomping at the bit to get home and celebrate with their fans, but there’s no better time for us to have a crack at the world champions. It’s a great opportunity for us.”