Reilly's opportunity to put one over Wellens

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The Independent Online

With all due respect to the Great Briton incumbent, Kris Radlinski, whose Wigan side wait for the winners in the final, the two form full-backs in the country clash head-to-head in the Powergen Challenge Cup semi-final today.

The two Pauls - Wellens and Reilly - could have a major say in deciding the spoils at the Halliwell Jones stadium in Warrington this afternoon. Saints' Wellens is the established star, with Great Britain caps already to his credit, but it is Huddersfield's Reilly who has caught the eye this season.

The Huddersfield coach, Jon Sharp, previously assistant to Ian Millward at Saints, has been involved with both players. "It's a mouth-watering prospect,'' he says. "You're talking about two players at the top of their form. It would be rude not to put Radlinski up there as well, but they are the best full-backs in the game at the moment.''

That is not to say that they are similar, either in their playing styles or their personalities. "They are like chalk and cheese,'' said Sharp. "Paul Wellens used to play half-back and there is a lot of football about him. He's such a skilful all-round footballer.

"Paul Reilly is combative, very aggressive, with great tackle-breaking qualities. He's quite different, but equally effective. He's playing very well, but what I'm telling him is that he's got to play consistently well, like Wellens has done for three years and Radlinski has done for longer."

Wellens himself has certainly noticed the growing status of today's rival. "Over the last couple of years, he's been playing some really good football,'' he says of Reilly.

"He's now getting the recognition he deserves, because Huddersfield are playing so well. He's very strong, a great runner of the ball and he's right up there with the best full-backs in the game at the moment.''

Wellens' own form took something of a dip - largely due to injury - last season, but his hard work over the winter has made him the fittest and the strongest he has been.

If Reilly's hallmark is his solo running power, then Wellens fits so well into Saints' style of play because he can chime into moves anywhere on the field and provide the link or the finish for so many attacks.

That is something Sharp will have been warning his troops about in the run-up to today's game, in which his in-depth knowledge of the way Saints do things could be an important factor.

"Jon's a fantastic coach and a great guy,'' says Wellens. "He'll really have them up for this challenge. He's the kind of coach who leaves no stone unturned, and he'll be the same with us this weekend.''

Having the information is one thing, but Sharp needs the right men on the field to make use of it. Reilly was one of six players rested at Leeds last week, but it would be a shock if he and other key men such as Stanley Gene and Paul March were not on the pitch at Warrington this afternoon.