Dragons aim to get play-off hopes on track at Salford

Steve McNamara will unleash his desperate Dragons at Salford on Monday in a match that may prove pointless if Super League chiefs decide to curtail the season and go straight to play-offs.

“We’re desperate to play,” the Catalans coach told League Express, adding: “We realise things could change drastically, but we need to play and we have to play.”

The Dragons will hit 13 completed fixtures if the Salford game goes ahead, still two short of the threshold for play-off contention under existing Super League rules.

But if, as is widely expected, those rules change, leaving Catalans safely in fourth spot among the play-off contenders McNamara says he’s happy with that, so long as any decision is fair to all the clubs.

“We accepted the percentage system which came in because clubs may not be able to fulfil all of their fixtures. It was the fairest method possible and at the moment we’re all continuing on that path.

“We’re planning for Salford on Monday and Saints on Thursday, but we realise all of this could change. We will continue to do whatever the RFL and Super League tell us to do, but not what suits one or two certain clubs.

“Everyone has a vested interested and we have to trust and allow the people who are looking at the whole picture to decide on what is the best solution.

“If they decide to change things then we follow that course, it’s simple. So long as the decision is made with the best interests of the whole competition we’re happy with that.

“The priority for the game is to get to the semi-finals and final and I think we all agree on that.”

McNamara said Catalans had an equal say in whatever decision is made by Super League, adding: “There is an executive committee there at Super League which asks for ideas from the clubs, but we’ve all got vested interests, it’s impossible for anybody not to. So, given that scenario, you have to let the people who are impartial make the decisions that are right for the competition.

“We’ve said all along we’ll abide by whatever that is.”

Fears that Catalans couldn’t cope with new French lockdown procedures or excessive travel expenses in any new play-off scenario were dispelled by McNamara who said: “We have got contingency plans in place and we will do whatever it takes to go on and try to win the competition.

“So if the scenario changes we will adapt immediately and we have taken measures to ensure everything is in position if and when it’s ever needed.

“As for the new confinement rules in France, we’ve got exemption certificates for professional sports people so if we get stopped on the way to work we can produce that so we can train as normal

“The players that tested positive last week are all okay and will be available for selection this week, although under the RFL’s Covid protocols they cannot be selected for the squad against Salford on Monday.

“There’s a return-to-play process that everyone has to follow as part and parcel of the Covid policies.”

McNamara said the fiercely competitive nature of the St Helens v Wigan fixture on Friday had set the bar for the play-offs, adding: “It gives you a reminder of what it takes to win the competition.

“At this stage of the season the stakes start to get higher, the quality goes up, the teams start making fewer mistakes and defending better.

“The level of intensity, the number of plays in a game, the fatigue and the concentration – all of that goes up to a completely different level now.

“That’s what happens in play-off football, the top teams playing the top teams.

“I spoke about this a lot when I was the England coach, about the English players being involved in that standard of game to help the national side improve. It’s the same here with our French players, that is the standard you aspire to.

“Everybody has to go to that level and lift themselves if they want to continue in the competition.

“It’s great, that is what is needed, and we’re excited by it.”

For Monday’s game, McNamara includes teenage backrower Joe Chan in his 21-man squad for the first time, with four changes in total. The Tomkins brothers, Sam and Joel, both drop out, as do Jason Baitieri and Alrix Da Costa, with Chan, Lucas Albert, Mickael Simon and Arthur Romano all called up in their place.

For Salford, Mark Flanagan and Jack Ormondroyd are both back in the squad after being ruled out through the concussion protocol and a positive Covid-19 test respectively, while Kris Welham is also recalled, and Oliver Roberts, Tom Gilmore and Olly Ashall-Bott all drop out.

Salford 21-man squad: 2 Ed Chamberlain, 3 Kris Welham, 4 Dan Sarginson, 5 Krisnan Inu, 6 Tui Lolohea, 8 Lee Mossop, 9 Joey Lussick, 10 Gil Dudson, 12 Pauli Pauli, 13 Tyrone McCarthy, 14 Sebastine Ikahihifo, 16 Greg Burke, 17 Luke Yates, 18 Chris Atkin, 19 Mark Flanagan, 22 Rhys Williams, 24 Elliot Kear, 25 Connor Jones, 26 Jack Ormondroyd, 30 Andy Ackers, 32 Kallum Watkins.

Catalans 21-man squad: 1 David Mead, 3 Samisoni Langi, 4 Israel Folau, 5 Fouad Yaha, 6 James Maloney, 7 Josh Drinkwater, 8 Remi Casty, 9 Michael McIlorum, 10 Sam Moa, 13 Benjamin Garcia, 14 Julian Bousquet, 15 Mickael Simon, 16 Tom Davies, 17 Benjamin Jullien, 19 Mickael Goudemand, 20 Lucas Albert, 21 Paul Seguier, 22 Arthur Romano, 25 Arthur Morgue, 28 Sam Kasiano, 30 Joe Chan.

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