St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham admits he is clinging to any advantage he can get ahead of a World Club Series clash with the Sydney Roosters, saying he hopes to capitalise on the NRL side’s off-season woes.
For the Roosters, the trip to the north of England has likely been a welcome distraction after an off-season from hell in which they’ve lost three high-profile stars to rival clubs, key forwards Boyd Cordner and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves to long-term injuries and co-captain Mitchell Pearce indefinitely for his alcohol-fuelled Australia Day breakdown.
Despite the troubles, and the loss of James Maloney (Cronulla), Michael Jennings (Parramatta) and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Warriors), Cunningham acknowledges the Roosters will still pack a world-class punch at Langtree Park on Friday (Saturday 0700 AEDT).
It’s why Cunningham says his side will need to be at their best and hope their opponents are feeling the effects of a draining past few months.
“I hope so. I hope everything plays into our hands, because they’re a great side,” Cunningham told AAP.
“They’re really going to test us all across the field on Friday night.
“We’re playing in my eyes one of the best squads in the NRL. They’ve got some absolute superstars.
“I know they’ve lost some players but (recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan) just keeps bringing them through the system.
“When they let somebody go, they’ll just chuck another superstar in there.
“There’s a lot of good players and it’s a good test for all my players to go out there on Friday night and have a good dig at it.”
Cunningham will take a weakened side into the clash with classy centre Mark Percival sidelined for around two months with a medial ligament injury, and dynamic hooker James Roby not able to overcome a rib injury to take his place in a 19-man squad announced on Wednesday.
Ex-NRL players feature prominently in Cunningham’s squad, with former Penrith halves Luke Walsh and Travis Burns set to play behind a pack which features Lama Tasi (Roosters), Dominique Peyroux (Gold Coast) and Atelea Vaea (Melbourne).