It’s win at all costs for Catalans Dragons in Friday night’s Challenge Cup quarter-final against Warrington as the French club pays the price for continued success in Rugby League’s oldest competition.
The Dragons will board a private jet to the UK for the fifth time so far this season, despite being pulled out of the bag first in the previous two Cup draws, having to concede home advantage because of the RFL’s TV broadcast commitments.
Friday’s match at Headingley is part of a Challenge Cup double-header being shown by Sky Sports and the previous round (against Wakefield) was selected by the BBC to televise live, leaving Catalans with no option but to travel.
Following their historic cup win in 2018, the French club was forced to place a financial bond with the RFL to ensure any future losses in gate revenue at Wembley would be covered and also asked to pay for all travel to and from Perpignan, including for visiting teams in the Cup.
“We had to sign an incredibly demanding agreement just to stay in the competition,” coach Steve McNamara told League Express.
“It costs us a lot of money just to be in the Cup, whether we are home or away. It’s a unique arrangement that we have to face, but that’s what was asked of us after we won the final in 2018.
“We’ve had two home draws, which we’ve had to give up and, from a financial side with the demands of Covid, it would have been much easier for the club to pull out of this year’s competition.
“But the Challenge Cup is one of the most prestigious trophies in professional sport and for us not to be in it this year would have been a travesty.
“Our President Bernard Guasch and his fellow directors have moved heaven and earth for us just to be still in the Cup.
“As coaches and players we are fully aware of the sacrifices that are being made to enable us to compete and I hope we can repay some of that support on the pitch against Warrington on Friday night.”
McNamara will be without second-rowers Paul Séguier and Matt Whitley for the Warrington game but is hoping to bring giant prop Sam Kasiano back into the team.
The coach said, “Paul had to leave the pitch at Wakefield with a knee injury, unfortunately it looks like ligament damage but we will only know the extent of it on Monday when he has hospital scans.
“Matty is under observation at the moment, he hurt his neck last week against Warrington and you can’t take any risks with injuries in that area so we’ll monitor him for a couple of weeks to see how things develop before considering him for selection again.
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.