Dragons welcome Crusaders
Spared the daunting challenge of a mid-season Test against England, Catalan Dragons’ French internationals might be forgiven for relishing the prospect of taking on Welsh strugglers Crusaders RL in Perpignan tomorrow.
Tentative plans for France to play Wales this weekend after losing the prestigious fixture with England were never followed up, but the Engage Super League fixture at the Gilbert Brutus Stadium will have an international flavour to it.
Test quartet Cyril Stacul, Rémi Casty, Vincent Duport and Cyrille Gossard are still sidelined for the Dragons but they have seven members of the French team hammered 60-6 by England in Leigh exactly 12 months ago.
Crusaders are without Gareth Thomas but coach Iestyn Harris recalls hooker Lloyd White, whose late penalty goal enabled Wales to snatch an 11-10 victory over the French in the European Cup final in Albi last October, a stunning result which earned them a place in this year’s Four Nations Series.
The Wrexham club were also victorious in last season’s League game in Perpignan but know they will be up against it this time.
Harris’ men are bottom of the table after winning just four of their opening 15 matches while Trent Robinson’s Dragons are up to fifth after losing just one of their last nine.
“Catalan are in good form and their squad is full of top athletes,” said Harris. “Trent Robinson has given them a bit of structure and he has added qualities to their game that are there for all to see.
“If you mix that in with their physicality and the French flair that has always been there, then they have all the attributes to become a top side very quickly.
“They are going to be a very dangerous prospect for us and we need to make sure we are on our game as we have done for four out of our last five games.
“Results haven’t exactly gone our way but we have played some extremely good sides in recent weeks.
“We need to ensure that our performances are of a high standard and hopefully it will be good enough to win the game.”
While the Dragons can expect a hero’s return for their first game in Perpignan since April following their notable win over Wigan Warriors in Montpellier, Harris is using the trip to France to galvanise his troops following their big home defeat by Warrington Wolves.
“The few days out in France will be good for the squad,” he said. “We are treating it as a mini-training camp where we can group together and enjoy each other’s company and hopefully get the job done.
“It is going to be difficult but it is something that we are looking forward to.”
The game in Perpignan is the only Super League fixture tomorrow, with all 12 English teams in action on Sunday, when players from tonight’s Origin international are expected to be back in action.