Catalans Dragons have issued their 2021 squad numbers – and Israel Folau, who wore the number 4 shirt when he returned to Rugby League with the Dragons in 2020 – is a notable absentee from the squad list.
Folau is currently in Australia with his wife Maria, whose mother suffered a serious stroke and needs constant care if she is to recover.
The Dragons have granted Folau leave of absence, but at this stage his playing future looks uncertain, with NRL clubs reluctant to offer him a contract because of a feared backlash from their supporters after the controversy in relation to comments he posted on Instagram about homosexuality being sinful according to his religious beliefs.
His shirt is taken by new NRL recruit Dean Where, while Arthur Mourgue takes the number 1 shirt vacated by David Mead and Tom Davies moves up to occupy the number 2 shirt vacated by Lewis Tierney.
Former Salford prop forward Gil Dudson takes the number 8 shirt of former Catalans captain Rémi Casty while Julian Bousquet moves up to the number 10 shirt vacated by Sam Moa and new signing from Castleford Mike McMeeken takes the number 12 shirt occupied last season by Joel Tomkins, who drops down to number 22.
A quartet of young French players are given squad number for the first time. Mathieu Laguerre, Corentin Le Cam, Mathieu Cozza and Joe Chan are given numbers 20, 21, 23 and 27 respectively, while Mika Simon, Lucas Albert and Antoni Maria, who all had squad numbers last season, have all left the club.
Squad numbers 25 and 26 remain vacant, however, suggesting that a place would be held for Folau if he does decide to return to the south of France.
Catalans 2021 Squad: 1 Arthur Mourgue; 2 Tom Davies; 3 Samisoni Langi; 4 Dean Whare; 5 Fouad Yaha; 6 James Maloney; 7 Josh Drinkwater; 8 Gil Dudson; 9 Micky McIlorum; 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; 19 Arthur Romano; 20 Mathieu Laguerre; 21 Corentin Le Cam; 22 Joel Tomkins; 23 Mathieu Cozza; 24 Jason Baitieri; 27 Joe Chan; 28 Sam Kasiano; 29 Sam Tomkins.