St Helens captain James Roby says he is on track to make his long awaited return from injury in next month's World Club Challenge against NRL champions Sydney Roosters.
But the star hooker insists he won't run out in the February 22 clash if not 100 per cent after undergoing "quite rare" groin surgery.
Roby will miss the start of St Helens' UK Super League title defence which kicks off against Salford on Saturday (AEDT) after going under the knife twice in 2019 to treat the on-going issue.
He had surgery mid-season and returned for the final six games to help the Saints claim the Super League title under coach Justin Holbrook who has since taken the reins at the Gold Coast Titans.
But Roby was still troubled by the complaint and opted for another operation in the off-season, missing the end of year Great Britain tour.
Roby said he was now on track and had the World Club Challenge - and the Roosters - firmly in his sights.
"I'm well on the road to recovery. It's all good and should be ready to play not too long after the start of the season," he told Total Rugby League.
"I'll definitely miss one or two early rounds. We have a World Club Challenge and I'm hoping to be back for that game or even the week before.
"But the procedure I've had is quite rare so it's not worth risking it if it isn't absolutely right."
Roby gave the thumbs up for Holbrook's replacement, Tonga national coach Kristian Woolf.
But he admitted there were big shoes to fill following Holbrook's NRL move.
"There is pressure on Kristian although the fans will be on his side if we win the World Club Challenge or the Challenge Cup," said Roby.
"Kristian communicates very well, in black and white, and I love that about him.
"I can already see that he is going to be a good guy for us. We want to go for all three trophies and we want to hit the ground running from round one.
Australian Associated Press