Catalans Dragons will regroup at Stade Gilbert Brutus this morning (Monday) exactly four months since they last played together.
Coach Steve McNamara says the club has a “massive responsibility” to ensure the first steps of a restart to the Super League season are successful.
He told League Express: “We have to ensure that everything is as clean and controlled as it can be to minimise all risks. If we get this wrong as a game at this stage, the repercussions will be catastrophic.”
Catalans were the first Super League club to lose a home fixture to Coronavirus and they are the first to resume full squad training, albeit under strict French government guidelines.
McNamara said: “I’m really proud of the club in terms of its level of organisation around this. Every club is in the same boat, but we’re off government support before all of the others and we’ve been given the green light to get back in training.
“We’re fully prepared to employ all of the rules and regulations that need to be applied and all the players and staff are aware that this is too important for our game to have any unnecessary slip-ups.
“The work that is being done to get our competition started again in a safe manner has been incredible and it’s up to us to stick to the letter on all of the guidance we have been given.
“It’s an extra financial burden for the club for a period of time, but our owner and the board of directors have been awesome during this period in the way they have understood and dealt with such a complex and changing situation.
“They are backing us all the way and we’re really grateful for that support.”
There will be a warm welcome at training for centre Israel Folau, who last week agreed to stay at the Dragons for another season.
The 31-year-old former dual-code international has turned down interest from NRL clubs to remain in Perpignan until at least the end of next season, a decision which delighted club President Bernard Guasch.
The Catalans owner said: “Israel’s decision to stay for one more year honours him.
“Once the media storm following his signing had passed, and after just three Super League appearances, he started receiving many requests and became a player in high demand.
“But it is clear that he feels some gratitude for the club and he has shown that he is a respectful player.”
Folau and his wife Maria have settled happily in the south of France and are expecting their first child next month.
Coach McNamara was delighted by the new deal: “It’s a great recognition for the club and his team-mates. He’s a very experienced professional and he’s obviously seen something he likes here.”
He added: “I’m more pleased that he has seen the set-up, how we coach, how we condition and look after our players. He’s seen a performance environment that he’s obviously very happy with and he feels can improve him as a player. And at the same time he’s found an area and a place for himself and his family where they are happy to spend the next part of their lives.
“He’s been an absolute pleasure to be around since we signed him and dropped him in at the deep end. We threw him into the lion’s den when he arrived, but we haven’t had the chance to see what he can do yet because of the suspended season.”
McNamara said Folau had slotted seamlessly into the playing group, adding: “He’s a really approachable guy and he’s just like any other member of the squad. We don’t treat him any differently and he’s the same with us.
“James Maloney is the same, there is no ego whatsoever, he’s just one of the guys.
“Of course, when we get going again, we’re expecting the individual talents to shine because they are two very special players. But in the training environment they are so grounded and natural that they are a pleasure to be around.”
McNamara declined to comment on speculation that the Dragons were about to extend the contract of 24-year-old England Knights second row Matt Whitley, whose current deal ends this year.
“Matt’s a good young player and we’d obviously like him to be around for longer here, but nothing has been confirmed at this stage,” said the coach.