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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 March 2007, 12:09 GMT
Jon Wilkin column
Jon Wilkin

By Jon Wilkin
St Helens back row

Very few people would have predicted that St Helens would lose three out of their opening six Super League fixtures.

But we have, our latest defeat coming at the hands of a very motivated team with a lot to prove.

All credit to Hull FC. They simply played better for longer periods and converted their breaks into tries thanks to some great support play.

Now the aim for Saints is to bounce back quickly, and who better to do that against than my old team Hull KR.

Hull KR's James Webster and Iain Morrison celebrate promotion
Newcomers Hull KR have made a strong start in Super League

I was 15 when I signed for the Robins and was so happy. I'd had offers from other teams but they seemed the best option for me.

They were willing to let me finish my A-levels and I also thought they would provide me with a better chance of playing against men rather than spending a few years in an academy.

The National League, at that time, was a ruthless place to be and I became very good friends with the forearms, elbows and fists of quite a few surly old pros who were keen to show a young lad how the game should be played!

I weighed around 13 stone and got pushed around a fair bit, but in hindsight I think it was really good for me.

There is nothing like getting knocked around to toughen you up both mentally and physically.

It's a shame that very few people I knew are still involved with the club, but Justin Morgan and the new recruits have certainly put the club into a fantastic position.

They are arguably one of the form teams of Super League, although Saints are hoping to halt some of their momentum on Friday.

We have been focusing on getting some of the basics right in training following our loss to Hull FC.

A lot of work has gone into the fundamentals, like passing, catching and tackling.

These skills are broken down into their smallest elements by the coaches and drilled into us every day.

I guess every club does the same, but it's how well you execute those plays on match-day that counts.

At Saints, we cover a wide range of subjects during the week.

We may have sessions that focus on speed, strength, agility and endurance.

Paul Wellens and Sean Long
Wellens and Long are used to getting their hands on cups

Then there are the visits to the physio, plus a video review and preview.

And don't forget the individual skills, like tea-making and the art of relaxation.

The last one is easily the most important. After being sat on by big men for 80 minutes, rest is vital and you need to let your body recover.

After conducting several very detailed studies, I have found the 'horizontal couch' method to be most effective, closely followed by 'daytime television hypnotherapy' - a thesis championed by Ade Gardner.

And of course, we can't forget the 'elevated foot, biscuit dunk-off' developed by Dr Paul Wellens and significantly contributed to by Dr Sean Long.

There has been a lot of media coverage surrounding the move of young Chris Ashton from Wigan to union side Northampton.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate Chris on his move. He obviously received an offer he couldn't refuse.

But it must be a concern for the RFL that the financial power of the RFU has won through again.

In my view, the RFL should definitely look at reviewing the salary cap.

It is a good way of controlling overspending, but does the RFL have any means for ensuring the best young players are not lost to the RFU as a result of a club's reduced spending power?

Why not give clubs some financial leeway for producing and keeping hold of young talent?

I couldn't finish this week's column without talking about the England cricket team.

Some members of the squad found themselves under the microscope following what has now become a well-documented night-out after a game at the World Cup.

Andrew Flintoff
Calm down coach, it's only a soft drink

I can't condone what the likes of Freddie Flintoff did, but I honestly think the issue has been blown out of all proportion.

It's inevitable that sportsmen who spend so much time away from home make mistakes, and Freddie is obviously a character who enjoys a drink from time to time.

It's part of his personality and makes him what he is. People should understand that, as long as he doesn't take it to the extreme.

I'm also confused why he was dropped. He is England's best player and should have been dealt with in-house.

Q. Which of your team-mates are you closest to and do any of the other guys ever fall out?

Gabbie, Stockport

A. During my five years at Saints I have never witnessed a genuine fall-out. There have been handbags at five paces but never any lasting damage!

I have loads of close friends in the team, so it would be hard to list them all. But I spend a lot of time with Wello, Ade and Longy away from rugby. They share a similar interest in talking rubbish all day.

Q. Who is the hardest opponent you have played against?

David Casteleago, St Helens

The hardest opponent in Super League is probably Jamie Peacock.

Having played with him in the Tri-Nations, I view him in a totally different light. He is relentless and one of the most dedicated players I know.

He put in some awesome performances as captain and is respected across the game.

Internationally, I think Darren Lockyer is one of the hardest. It has nothing to do with his size or strength, but he plays the game in a way that commands respect.

He has consistently been one of the world's best players. Ruben Wiki is also up there.

Q. Why do you think Salford have had such a poor start to the season and have been unable to continue last year's form that saw them finish in the top six?

Beryl Stewart, Bury

It's always hard to recreate the form of previous seasons, plus everyone is beating each other and so many teams have improved beyond recognition.

Luke Robinson and Luke Dorn are forming a new partnership that will take time to mature, too.

But I am sure Salford will be OK in the long run. They just need some luck and hard work to get out of the rut they are in.

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