Catalans Dragons are on a crash-course pre-season schedule as they return to training less than four weeks before their first game of the new Super League season.
The squad will regroup at Stade Gilbert Brutus on March 1st for a period of intense preparation before their first game against Hull KR at Headingley on Saturday March 27th.
But coach Steve McNamara is refusing to panic, insisting that his side will be fully primed for the big kick-off.
“We’ll be ready when that first whistle blows,” McNamara told League Express.
“In an ideal world we would have more time to prepare, but quite clearly things have been less than ideal for a while now. The players are all aware of the situation, they are all fit and healthy and we’ll pull it together.”
Conditions attached to French government financial aid for the club ruled out any return to formal training so far this year, but McNamara is hoping to make up for lost time when the players regather next week.
“Obviously we’re going to have to spend a lot of time on the field making sure we come together as a team, but I don’t see it being a problem,” said the Dragons’ coach.
“It might not be as smooth as we’d like but I don’t think we’ll see many teams firing on all cylinders as soon as the season starts. But as long as we have the effort, commitment and desire, then we’ll be alright.”
McNamara said the club had no plans so far to stay over in the UK for the first two games.
“We’ll be flying in and out for both games,” he added.
“We had a fair bit of success travelling away last year. The players know what to expect, we have a certain rhythm to the way we travel, complete the fixture and return. We had a couple of disruptions last season but we’ve learned from everything and we’re better for it.
Catalans will play Championship side Toulouse Olympique in a pre-season fixture in Perpignan on Saturday March 13th, a game that will see a rapid return to Stade Gilbert Brutus for former Dragons skipper Rémi Casty, who has now joined the French Championship side.
“There’s a great relationship between the two French clubs. Sylvain Houles (Toulouse coach) and I have been speaking about pre-season possibilities, not only fixtures but maybe training sessions together.
“We’ve done this in the past but it’s a little more difficult under the current virus-control situation, however we’re hoping we can get together at some stage.”
McNamara also revealed there had been no further developments on Israel Folau’s situation, with the player remaining in Australia because of a family illness until further notice.
“Israel remains in contact with us, but as of now there has been no change,” said the coach.
The club is still looking to sign one more overseas player following the recent acquisition of Kiwi centre Dean Whare and an additional recruit will be needed if, as expected, Folau does not return to Perpignan.
Meanwhile Catalans winger Fouad Yaha has signed a two-year contract with the club.
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