Sylvain Houles expects ‘new dimension’ to Toulouse Olympique with latest signings

Daniel Alvaro will jet into the south of France this week to add some heavyweight NRL firepower to Toulouse Olympique’s bid to escape Super League relegation.

The 28-year-old Italy international prop has been granted an early release from his contract at St George Illawarra to link up again with his former Dragons’ team-mate Corey Norman, who has already joined the French club.

Coach Sylvain Houles is hoping the two new signings will kick-start Toulouse’s season, which has seen just one win from eleven games as they remain rooted to the bottom of the league ladder.

“These are the players we always needed but we couldn’t sign them until now,” he said.

Toulouse have just returned from a team-bonding training camp at a countryside retreat near Montpellier and Houles reported a “positive mood” among his squad.

“We’ve always been confident in our own abilities,” he said, “Even though the results haven’t gone our way.

“We have shown we can be competitive against the very best teams and the players had a real camaraderie on our team trip last week.

The mood is positive, the players know what they must do and now we have the manpower to do it.”

Toulouse face potential relegation rivals Wakefield Trinity on Sunday in a classic four-pointer at Stade Ernest Wallon but Houles insists the season will not be decided by one game.

He said, “It’s a big, big game obviously but not just because it is Wakefield, it is the two points that make this game so important.

“We need to start winning and every point is vital now.

“I’m not putting any extra pressure on the players, because it is against Wakefield; we have to treat every match now like it is a cup final and Wakefield is no different.”

Houles will give a debut to new halfback Norman against Trinity, although Alvaro is unlikely to feature.

He said, “Corey has settled in immediately and fitted into the group and we can’t wait to see what he can do for us on the pitch.

“He will take some of the pressure off our captain Tony Gigot and Lucas Albert, who have been almost trying too hard to get the wins for us.

“Corey’s experience and leadership on the field will be huge for us and once Daniel (Alvaro) arrives we should be in a much better position to start finishing games off.

“These are two massively experienced NRL players who will bring a new dimension to the squad.

“We need some go-forward and impact on the pitch and Daniel will provide that for us.”

Alvaro has signed a two-year deal at Stade Ernest Wallon and is expected to feature for Italy once more in this year’s World Cup in the UK, adding to his three current caps for the Azzurri.

His recruitment has come at a perfect time for Toulouse, according to Houles, who added, “We’ve had to wait for a long time to get the right players in and we’re very happy with the two new recruits and although I would have liked them from the start of the season, this might be the perfect timing for us to take a new direction and turn our season around.

“We’ve also got some players returning from injury; Latrell Schaumkel won’t be ready for the Wakefield game and neither will Guy Armitage but they are very close.

“Like many clubs we had a tough Easter and lost a few to injury, but the likes of Chris Hankinson and Dom Peyroux are not far off now and with the recruitments we have made we should be in pretty good shape in the coming weeks.

“We don’t need to rush anyone back for the Wakefield game but it’s looking pretty positive for our next game against St Helens, because we will have several first-teamers back for that one.”

Toulouse face St Helens for the second time this season at Stade Ernest Wallon on June 4th and Houles is looking for an historic double over the three-peat Super League champions after beating them in Round Six in March.

“It’s ironic that our only win was against the champions,” said Houles, “but I wouldn’t put it past us doing it again. If anyone can, Toulouse can.”

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