Wellens relishing positional switch
Former Great Britain full-back Paul Wellens is itching to prove that you can teach an old dog some new tricks.
The St Helens captain has been a fixture at full-back for his club for more than a decade, with all but a handful of his 439 appearances coming in the number one shirt.
He also won the majority of his 20 Great Britain caps as a full-back from 2001-07 and was England's last line of defence in the World Cups of 2000 and 2008.
But Wellens, who turned 33 last month, is about to embark on a new role in the twilight of his career by making a switch to the pack, starting in the Good Friday derby at Wigan Warriors.
Wellens, who was named Man of Steel in 2006 and won the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match in Saints' last Challenge Cup final triumph in 2008, is set to formally relinquish the full-back position to his understudy Jonny Lomax.
The hugely-promising Lomax switched from scrum-half when Wellens picked up a calf injury three matches into the season and proved to be such a revelation that coach Nathan Brown decided to keep him there.
Wellens has no problem with making way for the 22-year-old and reveals that a switch to the pack has been on the cards for some time.
"I spoke to Nathan Brown numerous times before the start of the season and when I was injured," he said.
"We discussed various options, for both myself and the team, and it's something I'm very comfortable with.
"A lot of cynical people will think I'm just saying that but, hand on heart, it doesn't concern me where I play.
"What I want is to be in the team, to be able to contribute, and what number I've got on my back or what position I play it not something that ever concerns me.
"I consider myself not a full-back but a rugby player and, with my experiences, I'm pretty confident that, whatever position I play, I can do a good job."
Brown, who established something of a reputation as a tinkerer during his four years at Huddersfield, is grateful for Wellens' versatility and his willingness to put the club first but has yet to decide on his role against Wigan.
"He's going to be playing somewhere," said Brown, who is still wrestling with a number of injury concerns. "We just need to see who's fit.
"We had a plan for him when everyone was fit but now we've got numbers of people injured.
"He'll play an important role for the team, that's for sure. He'll adapt and we know, wherever he plays, he's going to compete hard and bring a lot to the team. The position is probably a bit irrelevant."
Wellens says training with the Saints forwards has given him a new appreciation for the work they do - but that has not prevented him becoming the target for some light-hearted banter.
"Some of them have been teasing me, which I enjoy and would expect," he said.
"There's been some good banter but we're all in the same boat, we all want to do well.
"Even with the little experience I've had in training doing what they've been doing for a long time has given me a lot of respect for how hard they work.
"It's a different challenge and I'm excited about it. It's an opportunity to get my teeth into something a little bit different.
"Nathan been running me in a few different positions in training but which he chooses for me doesn't bother me. Whatever comes my way I'll attack it with both hands."
If, as expected, Wellens lines up at loose forward on Good Friday, he will come up against arguably the leading number 13 in Super League in Wigan captain Sean O'Loughlin.
"He's a fantastic player, someone I get on really with off the field," Wellens said.
"He's a top, top lad. He's one of the reasons Wigan have been so good over recent seasons.
"A lot of people point to Sam Tomkins, who is an awesome player, but Lockers is one of those players whose work goes unnoticed. He's certainly key for them."