Pryce predicts success for Saints
Leon Pryce believes St Helens are guaranteed a top-three finish in Stobart Super League, but he will be aiming to prevent them taking over top spot tomorrow when he returns to his old club with Catalan Dragons.
The former Great Britain stand-off enjoyed the best spell of his career during his six seasons at St Helens, where he tasted Challenge Cup, Grand Final and World Club Challenge glory, but insists he has no regrets over his move to Perpignan.
Pryce became the French club’s first English recruit when he signed a three-year deal last August and, having made his debut in last Saturday’s 28-20 win over Castleford Tigers, is looking forward to his first sighting of Langtree Park, where the winners will go top of the table, at least for 48 hours.
The 30-year-old former Bradford Bulls favourite, who missed out on a return to Odsal in the opening round of Super League because of injury, is not sure what sort of reception he will receive from the Saints fans, but knows they will be in for another successful season.
“Saints are always going to be a good team,” he said. “No matter who leaves, they always recruit quality players and they’ve a good youth policy.
“I had the best years of my career there, going to Wembley, winning Super League in 2006 and beating Brisbane Broncos and just playing with some absolutely fantastic players.
“They are always going be top two or three, it’s our biggest challenge.
“It’s going to be good to play in the new stadium. Saints fans have deserved that. It looks fantastic from what I’ve seen.
“As for the fans’ reaction, I’ll be more interested in the game.”
After being a permanent fixture in his first five years at Knowsley Road, Pryce had a wretched final season during the club’s temporary move to Widnes, making just eight appearances due to a string of injuries.
He was eventually left out of coach Royce Simmons’ squad for Old Trafford, thus missing the chance to extend his record of Grand Final appearances to 10, and with his contract up, he opted to move on.
Pryce had the chance to return to hometown club Bradford, from where he commuted during his time in Lancashire, and he admit he surprised himself by deciding to move to France.
“Now I’ve done it, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made with the family,” said Pryce, who has a house near the beach with his wife and two young children.
“I’m really enjoying the rugby and the lifestyle. It’s a different culture, a new way of life, and it’s not often you get the chance to do something different like that.
“It will take a while to get used to the team but so far so good. It’s good to be enjoying rugby again, to be honest. Last year was one to forget.”
Simmons, who took over from Mick Potter at the start of last season, admits he never got to fully utilise the talents of Pryce but admits he will be a threat to his team tomorrow.
“I never saw Leon fully fit,” he said. “The players who have played with Leon over the years have got all the respect in the world for him.”
Saints and the Dragons are among just four clubs unbeaten after three rounds.
The others are Warrington Wolves and Hull FC, who are set to give a debut to 20-year-old prop Josh Bowden at Salford City Reds tomorrow.
Without the suspended Sam Moa and with new signing Eamon O’Carroll not yet ready to make his debut, Hull are down to just two senior front rowers in captain Andy Lynch and Mark O’Meley.
The match will see Hull director of rugby Shaun McRae return to the club he coached for four-and-a-half years up to last summer.
Hull’s new head coach Peter Gentle was offered the chance to fill the Reds vacancy, but insisted on seeing out the season with Wests Tigers and, instead of succeeding McRae at Salford, decided to follow him to East Yorkshire.