CATALANS DRAGONS’ first day of pre-season training tomorrow (Tuesday) will be a lonely affair with only a handful of players available for practise.
Coach Steve McNamara and his staff will likely outnumber the playing group following 12 departures from last year’s squad and the absence of 17 internationals due to World Cup duty.
The Dragons’ 13 players in the French national team will return to the training group on December 5th and those still on duty with England (Sam Tomkins, Mike McMeeken and Michael McIlorum) will re-join in the new year.
A familiar face will return to training tomorrow following the return of prop forward Romain Navarrete to Stade Gilbert Brutus on a two-year deal.
Navarrete is a product of Catalans’ youth system and made his professional debut in 2016 for the Dragons.
He switched to Wigan Warriors the following season and earned a Grand Final winner’s ring in 2018 before moving to Wakefield Trinity, London Broncos and Toulouse Olympique.
The 28-year-old French international missed out on World Cup duty due to a knee injury but is ready to resume training five years since he left his first club.
Coach McNamara said: “We are delighted to bring Romain back to the Dragons. He is a strong, powerful player who at the age of 28 has matured into a consistent performer. He will add great value to our squad.”
Navarrete said, “I am very happy to return to my club, where it all started. I would like to thank Steve McNamara and Bernard Guasch for trusting me.
“I have learned a lot during my time in England and I’m looking forward to bringing my experience to the club that gave me my chance. I can’t wait to be back to the Gilbert Brutus Stadium and do everything to help the Dragons to win new trophies.”
Dragons’ President Bernard Guasch told Perpignan press: “The re-signing of Romain has added value in that we now have four French prop-forwards with him joining Julian Bousquet, Jordan Dezaria and Paul Séguier.
“That is the way forward for this club and also the best preparation for France as we look forward to the World Cup here in 2025.
“We have a number of players who are keen to join us in 2023 and there is a lot of activity going on at the moment in the UK and Australia.”
Catalans have released four prop forwards (Gil Dudson, Sam Kasiano, Matthieu Cozza and Dylan Napa) from last season’s squad and recruited only two in Navarrete and Sio Siua Taukeiaho.
Catalans are keen to recruit a further prop and two centres following the acquisition of Taukeiaho, winger Tom Johnstone and second-rower Manu Ma’u.
The Dragons’ General Manager Alex Chan is currently down under on a recruitment mission although the club’s attention has also been focussed back in the UK on the potential recruitment of Sydney Roosters’ frontrower Jared Waerea Hargreaves, who is in New Zealand’s World Cup squad.
Another player returning to the Dragons, albeit in the reserves’ side St Estève XIII Catalan, is 24-year-old Romain Franco who was released from the first-team squad at the end of the 2022 Super League season.
A product of the club development system, Franco made his Super League debut in 2021 but has struggled to make an impact in the first team after just seven appearances for the Dragons.
He has been given a second chance in the reserves who play in the French Elite One championship.
Catalans will be holding a breakfast launch at the club on Wednesday to promote season-ticket sales and unveil their new kit which has a traditional white home shirt with blood and gold chevron and red away strip.