Wellens targets derby win
Paul Wellens will be aiming to make up for the disappointment of missing his heroes' latest triumph when he leads St Helens out in the final match of Super League's Magic Weekend at Manchester's Etihad Stadium.
The former Great Britain full-back is a passionate Manchester City fan but while they were reclaiming their Barclays Premier League title with a 2-0 win over West Ham, he was helping Saints to a 50-0 victory at Bradford Bulls.
And he is hoping they can follow that up with a derby triumph over Warrington Wolves at the home of his favourite team on Sunday evening.
"Obviously I would have liked to have gone to the game but I certainly wouldn't have wanted to miss out on playing for Saints," Wellens said.
"So I gave my ticket away and my brother took my little lad and they enjoyed a great day and I did too. We had a great performance.
"I am looking forward to this game. It's obviously a great stadium and we really enjoy playing there. It's always a fantastic game against Warrington."
Wellens was especially keen not to miss out against the Bulls after coach Nathan Brown gave him a rare match off the previous week against London Broncos.
"I'd rather play but I sat down with Browny and we had a chat," said Wellens, who jointly with Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield holds the record for most First Utility Super League appearances and is expected to sign a new contract for 2015.
"He said 'it's a long season and a week off won't do you any harm' so I rested up, got rid of a few bumps and bruises and settled back into the team on Sunday.
"I think most players will tell you they'd rather be playing but sometimes you need to be protected from yourself."
Warrington are languishing in seventh place after winning just two of their last five matches but showed signs of regaining their touch with a 42-10 win over Catalan Dragons last week.
"They've had a lot of changes in personnel so it's been difficult for them, but certainly last week's performance against Catalan was a clear indication for me that they're moving in the right direction," Wellens said.
Warrington co-captain Michael Monaghan admits his side are still hurting from their 38-8 mauling by Saints in the opening match of the season.
"It was disappointing to start the season like that," he said. "We hadn't had a defeat like that for a while, in front of our home crowd as well, which was probably the most disappointing aspect of it.
"It won't be so much about revenge but restoring some pride after that performance."
The Saints-Warrington clash will bring down the curtain on the eighth Magic Weekend, with two West Yorkshire derbies getting the final day's action under way.
Six places separate Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats but they go into the opening match on the back of contrasting form, and Wildcats boss Richard Agar believes his side may have turned the corner thanks to consecutive away wins over Hull FC and Widnes Vikings.
"It's funny how it changes," Agar said. "We had a tough trot of results but we never felt sorry for ourselves and, bit by bit, we've tried to get our season back on track.
"The defensive improvement over the last month is there for all to see and, although we've still got some major improvements with the ball, gradually we're finding half-back and hooking combinations that are working for us.
"We probably identified that by nine or 10 weeks in, we should be getting more familiar with each other and we're coming into fixtures where we do genuinely see opportunities to get our season going."
Castleford kick-started their 2013 campaign with a resounding 49-24 win over Wakefield at the Etihad and, under Daryl Powell, have not looked back since.
"Cas certainly look every inch a top-four side," Agar said. "I think they've been a real success story for the competition, playing to a consistently high standard every week.
"We were a bit out on our feet when this fixture came around last year. We feel we're in a bit better shape this time."
Huddersfield Giants are boosted by the return of England forward Brett Ferres for their derby against Bradford as they look to extend their winning run to five matches.