St Helens head coach Paul Wellens believes his side are starting to hit the highs again after an unusually slow start to the Super League season.
Saints suffered narrow defeats in two of their opening three games this term, to Leeds and Leigh in early March, but have since won all their matches.
Wellens’ team face local rivals Wigan on Good Friday in the Super League’s Rivals Round and the Saints boss reckons he is beginning to see the levels which have helped them be hugely successful in recent years.
He told the PA news agency: “I’m very content with the way we are going at the moment.
“Yes we lost a couple of games which in our recent history has been a little bit unusual, but at the same time we have come off the back of something enormous for us as a club (winning World Club Challenge on February 18).
“I do feel confident as the coach, and I look at the group of players day in, day out and see there’s an energy and enthusiasm, and I think the game like we are going to get on the weekend is exactly what we need at this moment in time – I feel we are in the upward trajectory now.
“We are constantly looking for improvements and a few weeks ago we definitely were not where we needed to be as a team for a number of reasons. We are finding we are improving as a team now.”
Wellens admits it was difficult dealing with the emotional highs of defeating NRL side Penrith Panthers to lift the World Club Challenge in Australia and going back into domestic action straight away, which may have contributed to their stuttering domestic start.
He continued: “It’s a challenge because, not only did we invest lots physically and mentally as a team – it was a real emotional high in terms of that result and then I never felt like we had the chance to celebrate it.
“We came back straight into the Super League season and it’s game on game. It’s like playing a Grand Final then playing again the week after, so it’s a bit unusual.
“So we have had to manage and help the players get over that trip a little bit, but at the same time it’s a challenge we are rising to.”
Both St Helens and Wigan go into Friday’s encounter in similar form having won three on the bounce, losing two, and with the Warriors sitting in third – one place above Saints.
“Quite often these derby games are quite close and I know what it means to everyone to be involved in these games,” he said.
“With the two teams doing so well at the moment, and competing so well, it has all the ingredients for a classic.
“They are going to come with their best efforts and we have to match that but also they are a classy team and also play smart, but we have to be alert to the threats they have – and plenty of them – so we’ll prepare the best we can.”