BIG Alex Walmsley’s strong tackle-busting runs caught the eye in his first Super League season at Saints last term, but the 6ft 5 prop expects 2014 to be even better.
Having sacrificed a World Cup spot with Scotland to shake off injury and get a good pre-season under his belt, the powerful prop is raring to go in a pack that has been beefed up beyond recognition from last year.
All that starts tomorrow night, Thursday, with the big kick off against a Warrington front row that will feature a player who followed a similar route to the top flight as Walmsley.
Although Warrington have lost old heads Adrian Morley and Garreth Carvell, they have brought in experienced NRL prop Roy Asotasi and enlisted Anthony England from Featherstone – a familiar face for Walmsley.
The 23-year-old Saints prop said: “I have known Anthony from my amateur days and I had a brief spell with him at Dewsbury Celtic before he went down the professional route.
“Warrington may have lost a few players but they have brought good players in and have a strong base in terms of youngsters coming through so they won’t be missing too much from the pack.
“It is going to be physical, but that is what you want. You prefer to get straight into it.”
Although two of Saints’ new front row recruits - Mose Masoe and Richard Beaumont – will be missing the start of the campaign, their signings, along with that of Kyle Amor, give the pack a formidable look.
And with the advancement of young props Greg Richards, Anthony Walker and Carl Forster there has been a real crackle in training due to the battle for those spots in the 17.
“The signings have released a bit of pressure on the pack because last year there was a lack of real size,” he said.
“The chairman has come in and he has brought in three props and that is what we needed, although it will bring competition for places.
“That means we will have to be on our toes or miss out because there will be others champing at the bit to get in. The training intensity has gone up 10 times due to the lads fighting for places and it all stems from the good feel about the place and the buzz and the confidence going into it.”
Saints will be gunning to make a big impression – with the Wolves game followed by the visit of Hull and then a trip to big-spending Salford Red Devils.
After sluggish starts this past three or four seasons, Saints will be keen to set an early tone. Past starts is not something Walmsley is dwelling on, rather he is looking at the way the team finished up last year after an often turbulent injury plagued season.
“It was no secret that we did not have the best of starts last year and for a spell we were trying to catch up for a bit because of the start,” he said.
“But looking how we finished the back end of last year, the pre-season we have had and the lads coming in we have got a lot to look forward to in 2014.”