Presence of Talau can keep Saints on a roll

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The Independent Online

When an over-emotional Ian Millward declared a couple of weeks ago that his St Helens side could not retain their Super League title, one reason he was taken seriously was that his side looked thread-bare in some departments.

What, for instance, was he to do at centre, with two internationals, Paul Newlove and Martin Gleeson, both apparently out for the season?

We now know the answer. Newlove, widely believed to have played his last game for Saints before moving to Castleford, came back from injury weeks ahead of schedule last Friday and made a big contribution to beating Cas.

This afternoon could see another Test centre in Saints colours, with the New Zealander Willie Talau in line to make his debut at Hull. Talau was not due to arrive until next season, but a combination of his being out of favour at Canterbury and the opening up of an import spot at Saints with the retirement of Darren Britt saw matters speeded up considerably.

It is debatable how sharp he will be, but his mere physical presence will add a new element to Saints in their run-in towards the play-offs.

Apart from the permanent loss of Britt, Millward is still without players of the calibre of Paul Sculthorpe, but Saints have now won nine in a row.

A Hull side who have won just once in their last seven do not look capable of stopping them today. Hull's tailspin means that third and fourth are likely to be fought out between Saints and Wigan.

Significantly, Wigan have a long-term injury victim returning against Bradford. Well though Shaun Briscoe has deputised, the sight of full-back Kris Radlinski back in action will do much to give them the look of a side who could yet go all the way this season.