Penrith Panthers offer a baptism of fire to the Saints under Paul Wellens !

Full details about Penrith Panthers offer a baptism of fire to the Saints under Paul Wellens

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With the opening games underway, Paul Wellens’ first encounter in charge of the Saints couldn’t get tougher – a World Club challenge against back-to-back NRL champions Penrith Panthers.

Although the Saints will play a friendly against neighbors Widnes before they go, and take on St George Illawarra in a warm-up game when they get to Sydney, facing Penrith will be a veritable baptism of fire.

Although Saints have been Premier League champions for four years in a row, this is the first time they’ve played in this challenge since the 2020 Sydney Roosters game.

Denied two final chances due to Covid, Saints are relishing this opportunity – the first time the first team have played in Australia since 1997.

“It’s definitely a different way to start your career as a head coach,” Wellens said. “It’s a really exciting challenge for the group of players.

“I’ve said on a number of occasions, it’s an opportunity that they’ve had – not just in the last year, but over the last few years and what they’ve achieved.

“For this playing group to earn that opportunity and get the chance to go downhill and be challenged to play what we all know are a great team at Penrith, it’s great for the club and something we’re all very passionate about.

Going Down Under is a different challenge but one thing I know about this group is that they love a challenge.

“The odds are stacked against them. We may go out there, in everyone’s mind, as underdogs, but this group loves that kind of challenge.

“It would be great for the club to go out there and do well.

“People often make comparisons between the Super League and the NRL and whether players in this competition can be undervalued and vice versa.

“This is a great opportunity for us to show our club how successful we are – how good our team is.

“We go there, in my opinion, with the freedom to go and express ourselves and show who we are as a club. We’ve had a lot of success in recent years playing a certain way.

“I’m a new coach myself – I don’t see much changing there but we’re working hard on ways to find improvements.

“We hope this will reflect on our performance, not only at Down Under but throughout the rest of 2023.”