Catalans Dragons have brushed off suggestions that they will be under-cooked for the Super League play-offs after playing just 13 league games this season.
Coach Steve McNamara says his squad has shaken off a second-half collapse in their 42-24 defeat at Salford last Monday and they will be ready for Friday’s sudden-death clash against Leeds at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
“There are no excuses for that second half against Salford,” McNamara told League Express.
“We were just awful, but we’ve moved on and we’re training hard for the challenge of the next three weeks.”
The Dragons have been caught cold by several stoppages this season, but McNamara insists they will not misfire on Friday night, despite having played four fewer games than their opponents.
He said, “It’s not just the number of games that we haven’t played, it’s more the fact that we haven’t been able to train as much as we’d have liked because of stoppages, isolation and confinement.
“But we’re back in it now with full training sessions with a fully fit squad and we’ll find our rhythm against Leeds on Friday without a doubt.
“When you have to stop due to Covid, and in our particular case we’ve been completely stood down for blocks of two weeks and ten days, it takes away the ability to train. You’re static, so you’ve got to find your legs when you get back, which is what we are working on.”
McNamara said the Dragons fully deserved their top-six slot this year, adding: “We’re really pleased to be there, we’ve earned the right to be there, we’ve got enough wins on the board and put ourselves in a strong enough position during the season.
“It’s a challenge, but if it was easy everybody would do it. If you make it to the play-offs you are going to be playing against good teams who are in-form and when you look at the six sides involved it’s a fascinating mix.
“They’re all strong teams who have got to the play-offs in a variety of ways. Hull FC’s a classic example of a team who looked like they were out of the race a few weeks ago and now they’re back in form, winning games and they are a real threat.
“They are the sixth-placed team but the winner this year could come from anywhere.”
The Dragons’ coach added: “We’re excited, it’s Catalans’ first play-offs since 2014; these are the big occasions that players live and die for. We’re in it and we get a chance on Friday night to travel to England for a play-off game and hopefully progress into the major semi-finals.
“We did consider staying in the UK for three weeks but with Covid confinement and other complications we decided it was best to travel for the individual fixtures.
“We’re focused on what we need to do, our travel plans and preparations are in place and we’re good to go. We’ll play well on Friday.”
McNamara will have Sam and Joel Tomkins, Jason Baitieri and Matt Whitley available for selection this week following their absence from the squad at Salford.
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