Paul Wellens: Captain gives backing to St Helens youngsters
Paul Wellens believes some established names at St Helens face a battle to keep their first-team place ahead of the club's impressive youngsters.
A number of injuries have led coach Nathan Brown to hand seven academy graduates a Super League debut in 2013.
Captain Wellens told BBC North West Sport: "These lads now warrant a place in our starting 17, ahead of some of those more senior players.
"It's up to everybody else to fight their way back into the team."
Brown's first season at Langtree Park has been dominated by injuries.
and Jonny Lomax, who started the year in outstanding try-scoring form at full-back, are long-term absentees.
Experienced figures such as New Zealand's World Cup winner Lance Hohaia and Wellens, who was have also spent time out.
Saints have struggled for wins in their absence - took them back into Super League's top eight - but Wellens is predicting a brighter end to 2013.
He said: "One of the main positives to come from the last five or six weeks of disappointment is that our young players have got opportunities.
"You look at the likes of and Luke Thompson in particular, and for two 18-year-olds to perform the way they have speaks volumes for them as young players and our youth system at the club.
"Also, you can look at Alex Walmsley, who's come from Batley and He's performing like he's been here for 10 years.
"These lads probably wouldn't have got the opportunities they have had in recent weeks without the injuries we've had. In the long term, it really adds strength in depth to our squad."
St Helens face local rivals Warrington at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday as part of Super League's Magic Weekend, and Saints will go into the game full of confidence having
"Given our recent poor run of results, it was important that we - first and foremost - put in a good performance [on Monday]," added Wellens. "In doing that, you hope you can get the victory.
"The boys showed real character, especially from coming 16-0 down, to go on and win the game. It gives us real heart moving forward.
"We got a real confidence boost from earlier on in the year, but this presents a different challenge. We have a lot of respect for Warrington and we always seem to have entertaining games against them that quite often, pardon the pun, go down to the wire. I'm sure this one will be no different."