Dragons promote French youngsters

Steve McNamara is promising a different Catalans Dragons in 2021, with a new-look side taking flight to the UK this weekend for the first round of Super League 2021.

Catalans take on Hull KR at Headingley on Saturday aiming to go one better than their top-four finish last season, with a “younger, hungrier” squad containing several French players promoted from the reserves.

Seven senior players have left the club and centre Israel Folau is expected to remain in Australia, but McNamara insists his side is settled and ready for the task ahead, despite having just four weeks to prepare because of Covid restrictions on training.

“We’re ready,” he said.

“We’re ready physically and in every other department.

“It’s a new-look side with a new captain (Ben Garcia) and we will see some young and hungry French players coming through the ranks this year.

“The door is open; we’ve got a couple of players missing through suspension (Michael McIlorum and Joel Tomkins) so it’s up to the players who get the chance to make the most of it. They’re in pole position and some of them will get their chance this week.

“We’ve got a couple of overseas slots still available, so we can strengthen when we need to and we’ll get Micky and Joel back after the first few rounds, so there’s an element of confidence within the squad for the start of the season.

“We’re not under any immediate pressure to recruit; I’m more than happy with where we are at this stage.”

New signings Mike McMeeken, Gil Dudson and Kiwi international Dean Whare will all be up for selection against the Robins.

“Dean has joined the training group and you can tell from day one just how professional he is, and what a leader he will be in the group,” says McNamara.

“He’s clearly a good player but it’s the other qualities that he brings. You can see how physically fit and strong he is, and when you see how he prepares himself for training, the little details, he is an absolute professional. When you bring an overseas player in that’s the sort of thing you’re hoping for.

“It’s ironic, the only player at the club who has had a full pre-season is the newest guy in the squad. Dean completed the full programme with Penrith Panthers, so he’s had more prep than anyone else.

“But we will have no excuses from a physical perspective, all of our players have trained incredibly hard individually throughout the close-season.

“Hull KR have some new additions, they’re a very good team and I’m sure they’ll be looking to play their own game rather than worry about what we’ll be doing.

“After all the drama and tribulations of last year, the players can’t wait to get stuck in and we’re looking forward to it.”

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