McNamara hoping for senior players’ return to face Hull

The kids are alright for Catalans Dragons but there will be a return to senior service at the Stade Gilbert Brutus this week.

The Super League-leaders’ 12-match winning run came to an end at St Helens on Saturday as a side full of young French reserves suffered a 34-12 defeat by the champions. But Dragons coach Steve McNamara will welcome back some of his star players this week.

Subject to Covid test results tomorrow (Tuesday) Hull are Catalans’ next opponents in Perpignan and McNamara says it will be a very different Dragons team that turns out.

“We should have some of our senior players back this week,” McNamara told League Express.

“We’re a bit bashed up at the moment, but most clubs are in this kind of situation right now and we’ll be fine. The fixture list has taken its toll and it’s up to us to manage the situation as best we can.

“We had to do what we had to do at St Helens; we basically had eighteen players left, and hopefully we’ll get some senior boys back for the game against Hull this week.

“It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon and it’s my job to help navigate us through periods like this and we will bounce back.

“We’ll be stronger and we will win more games. Some of our young players got some game time and we will be all the better for it moving forward.”

McNamara, who last week picked up the Betfred Super League Coach of the Month award for July, was full of praise for debutants César Rougé and Corentin Le Cam, plus fellow reserve players Joe Chan and Romain Franco in their second games for the first team.

“We had a couple of boys on debut and couple of others in their second game and we got to learn a lot about them,” he said.

“Don’t forget, these boys aren’t match fit, our reserves’ season has been over for some time now, but they’ve had a taste of it now and they are hungry for more.

“We wanted them to display character and express themselves.

“Saints are a really good team and they can suffocate you, they did that for large parts of the game. Our young kids got hit hard and hit often but they showed character.”

Catalans lost another senior player when Joel Tomkins had to leave the pitch during the first half, clutching his elbow.

McNamara explained: “Joel probably shouldn’t have played; he had a huge infection on his elbow and he wasn’t in a fit state to carry on. He was on antibiotics and in a lot of pain but he just wanted to get out there and help those boys and hopefully he’ll be fine for our next game.”

McNamara will tour the wards at training this week, but the only long-term injury concerns remain Jason Baitieri, Arthur Romano and captain Ben Garcia, who is recovering from an operation on his broken arm.

The Dragons coach added, “Thankfully, it was a clean break for Ben, the surgeon was very happy and it seems to be repairing very quickly but he’ll have a four-week scan and we’re hoping it will be a standard six-to-eight weeks out.”

McNamara then reeled off his roll-call of injuries: “Matt Whitley has had an operation on a hernia so he should be back in three to four weeks; Sam (Tomkins) had some bruising around the top of his knee and we’re hoping he’ll be okay this week; Julian Bousquet will need a couple more weeks with his bicep problem, as will Tom Davies, who is recovering from a pectoral/collarbone issue; Micky McIlorum has been named in the squad for the past two weeks but he wasn’t quite 100 per cent after his ankle injury; Josh Drinkwater is suffering from a painful shoulder following the Hull KR game but he’ll be back in a week or so; Sam Kasiano has had an injection in his knee and Samisoni Langi, well you can name any part of his body and it’s sore, that’s the way he plays the game. He was bashed up completely after the last three matches and still put his hand up to play, but clearly he wasn’t quite right.

“The only other long-term concern Is Jason Baitieri; he’s working extremely hard on his knees and he is in great shape, but it will take a few more weeks before he will be ready to play.

“On the positive side it has been good to see Arthur Romano back at training. He put his boots on for the first time since his pre-season ACL injury and he’s a very diligent young man, keeps himself in good shape and he’s improving all the time. But it would be foolish to think of a return for him this season; it will be next year for Arthur.”

McNamara said he had considered drafting in new signings to boost his squad but added, “We decided to stick and give our young players their opportunities.

“We’ve got a winning squad that’s carrying a few knocks and we will get back to winning ways once we get the senior players back, starting hopefully against Hull this week.”

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