Dragons ready for Magic Saints challenge

Steve McNamara is hoping for a Magic cure to Covid blues for Rugby League this weekend as he prepares his squad for a top-two shoot-out in Newcastle.

The Catalans Dragons coach said that the annual two-day Super League Magic Round couldn’t have come at a better time for a game that has been ravaged both physically and financially by the Covid virus.

“It’s a real shot in the arm for the game,” the Dragons chief told League Express.

“It’s the first time since Covid struck that we can have a big-game experience in front of a significant crowd and I know everyone here is looking forward to it.”

Table-topping Catalans take on reigning champions St Helens on Saturday and McNamara said his players couldn’t wait for the match.

He added, “It’s clearly a big game, one against two, at an unbelievable stadium with fans from different clubs in a party atmosphere and it brings the best out in people.

“When we get on that aeroplane and the bus up to Newcastle I know it will feel like a big final weekend.

“It’s what everybody needs right now in Rugby League.”

Catalans were clobbered by Covid for the first time this season two weeks ago and were forced to postpone their trip to Warrington after four positive Covid tests at the club.

“It can strike any time,” said McNamara.

“And it’s really hit the game hard, but thankfully no-one was seriously ill here and hopefully it won’t happen again for the rest of the season.”

McNamara said injuries and Covid complications had hit every Super League side this season but there had been hidden benefits for his Dragons squad.

He added, “Every club is having the same issues at different times. We were pretty consistent in our team selection in the first half of the season, we were in a good position and relatively injury-free, but it was inevitable with the demands of this year that we would have to make changes.

“We’ve had so many young players making their debuts, Mathieu Cozza being the latest one for last week’s Salford game, and the hidden bonus of having this injection of youth into the side is the energy and positivity they bring to the team.

“You can see the young boys want to take their chance and it’s great to see, the team has really benefited and the club will be better off for it in the future.

“Of course, come the business end of the season, most managers will want to have all of their senior players back in position but it might not be possible for everyone.

“Whoever wins the Super League this year needs a pat on the back, it has genuinely been the toughest competition of them all, for so many reasons.

“It’s building up to a massive finish in front of a big crowd at Old Trafford and we’ll have a taste of that this weekend with the Magic Round.”

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