Catalans happy to forgo home advantage

Catalans Dragons will fly into the UK for the third time in three weeks on Saturday for their third round Challenge Cup clash against Wakefield Trinity, but there are no complaints from the French club about clocking up the air miles.

Coach Steve McNamara said he respected the decision by the BBC and RFL to select the Dragons as one of the two televised fixtures, even though it meant losing a precious home game.

The Dragons were drawn first out of the bag and were looking forward to their first game of the season in Perpignan before the broadcasters selected them to play in Saturday’s double-header at the Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens.

McNamara told League Express: “I think the BBC are entitled to select us for the Challenge Cup game and I have spoken to one of their officials who explained that it’s a World Cup year, which will be covered by the BBC. We have got lots of French players who may be new to viewers and they wanted to put us on TV.

“We were initially delighted to be drawn at home and we were looking forward to a game at the Brutus this week but the BBC pay a lot of money into Rugby League and they have the right to choose which games they want.”

The decision will incur additional logistical and financial cost for the Catalans, but McNamara believes it is a price worth paying.

“It’s nice to know that the BBC want to showcase us and that they feel that we will be of interest to their viewers,” he said.

“A couple of years ago we won the Challenge Cup, so we’ve got a fairly recent history of success being shown on British television and it’s pleasing to know that they are keen to cover us once more.

“We had record viewing figures for our round one game against Hull KR on Sky Sports, so there’s a little bit of momentum there.

“Winning games obviously helps too and we’ve shown we can win in different styles.

“At the same time we are proving that young French players like Arthur Mourgue and Matthieu Laguerre in round one are capable of playing at the highest level.

“I think that is proving attractive to the BBC and we fully understand, especially with the international tournament coming up at the end of the season.”

McNamara should be able to pick from a full squad for Saturday’s Cup clash, despite a series of injuries that punctuated Saturday’s Super League match against Huddersfield.

“There was plenty of blood spilled,” said McNamara.

“It was a tough game and we had to put our heads in places where it was going to hurt. But while it may have looked bad, most of the players had superficial injuries that required a few stitches before we got back on the aeroplane home. So thankfully we haven’t got anything major to worry about at training this week.

“Dean Whare suffered a badly broken nose and there were cuts for Alrix Da Costa, Jason Baitieri and James Maloney. Some had stitches at half-time and others at the end of the match.

“The ironic thing is that our physio Rob Parkinson, who would normally look after these things, was injured himself and unable to travel for the game so full credit to all our staff on the day.

“It was a completely different performance than our previous win over Hull KR. Our defence nearly lost it for us in round one, but it was our defence that won the game against Huddersfield.

“We might not have scored a point in that second half, but we didn’t do anything stupid. We remained calm and composed and Huddersfield were trying to keep the ball and look for us to make mistakes. They are the self-proclaimed fittest team in the competition, but they couldn’t run us down.

“That was the most pleasing thing for me. We don’t talk too much about what we do or don’t do, but our medical and physical performance staff, and what they have to do to get us turned around for another trip to the UK, they are incredible.

“We’ve had two very physical games and we’re happy with where we are at.

“Mike McMeeken has been really good for us in both games and Dean Whare had to tough it out on Saturday. Gil Dudson’s first spell for us was very good but by his own admission his second spell was a bit off the mark, but it was crucial for him to get that game-time under his belt.”

The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.