CATALANS DRAGONS v HULL KINGSTON ROVERS
Saturday 27 March, 5.15pm, Emerald Headingley
Sky Sports Main Event and Arena
While the pandemic has posed challenges for all clubs, as the only two sides based outside England, it’s been especially problematic for Catalans and Toulouse.
The pair met in a pre-season match, and while the Dragons recovered from a dodgy first half to run out 40-28 winners, coach Steve McNamara says there is still a lot of work to do.
French regulations prevented Catalans returning to training until the start of March, so they could well be playing catch-up when the new campaign starts.
“Contact is probably the one area where we’re behind. Other clubs have had a lot of sessions and it’s a different fatigue,” said McNamara.
“I’d say a month is the minimum time it takes for players to get adjusted but we’ll be fine, we’re confident we’ll be as ready as we can be for round one.”
The club is still playing the waiting game over Israel Folau, who remains in Australia and hasn’t yet been allocated a squad number.
But another centre, Dean Whare, signed from Penrith, is in line for a debut, in all likelihood facing fellow New Zealand international Shaun Kenny-Dowall.
Former Newcastle Knights back Kenny-Dowall has been made captain by Rovers coach Tony Smith, who has really rung the changes in his squad.
Last season, Rovers beat Wakefield first up, but then needed another eight attempts before gaining a second league win.
Smith will clearly be seeking a far more solid start this time around.
Match day 21-man squads
Catalans: 1 Arthur Mourgue, 2 Tom Davies, 4 Dean Whare, 5 Fouad Yaha, 6 James Maloney, 7 Josh Drinkwater, 8 Gil Dudson, 10 Julian Bousquet, 11 Matt Whitley, 12 Mike McMeeken, 13 Benjamin Garcia, 14 Alrix Da Costa, 15 Benjamin Jullien, 16 Paul Séguier, 17 Mickael Goudemand, 18 Lambert Belmas, 20 Mathieu Laguerre, 24 Jason Baitieri, 27 Joe Chan, 28 Sam Kasiano, 29 Sam Tomkins
Hull KR: 1 Adam Quinlan, 2 Ben Crooks, 3 Greg Minikin, 4 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 5 Ryan Hall, 7 Jordan Abdull, 8 Albert Vete, 9 Matt Parcell, 10 Korbin Sims, 11 Brad Takairangi, 12 Kane Linnett, 13 Dean Hadley, 14 Jez Litten, 15 George Lawler, 16 George King, 17 Elliot Minchella, 18 Matty Storton, 20 Mikey Lewis, 23 Ethan Ryan, 25 Rowan Milnes, 27 Luis Johnson
Key to victory: The big question is whether the Dragons have had enough time to prepare for the start of the season, as opposed to the Robins, who certainly have. The result could hang on whether Rovers’ newcomers can gel together quickly.