Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara has slammed reports that Israel Folau has turned his back on the second year of his contract at Stade Gilbert Brutus.
McNamara reacted furiously to media speculation that the 31-year-old former Australian dual-code international centre is considering moves to the NRL or rugby union with twelve months still to run on his current deal in Perpignan.
“I don’t normally react to things, but this is absolute rubbish,” said McNamara.
“People have suggested that he’s simply not returned to France and made no contact with the club and it’s the complete opposite. He’s got a serious family situation back home in Australia and, from day one of that situation arising, he has been in contact with us.
“That’s where we are currently at and there has been no change in the situation. It’s a personal thing and we are giving him whatever time he needs.”
Another Catalans first-teamer still to return from down under is scrum-half Josh Drinkwater and McNamara explained: “Josh is back in Australia just waiting for a passport renewal but there are no dramas, he’s training over there and he isn’t missing much because we aren’t training yet as a team.”
The Dragons coach also responded to media reports that Catalans were preparing to relocate to the UK for the opening months of the season if the Covid crisis continues to affect international travel.
“That’s right, we are making preparations, but only as a very last resort. We have to prepare for every eventuality and we are in constant dialogue with the RFL and Super League as the Covid situation develops on an almost daily basis.
“Moving to the UK would create so many difficulties and it is the ultimate last resort, but we have to consider everything. It doesn’t mean that any decision has been made to relocate and it is the last thing we want to do.
“We are working in close conjunction with Toulouse Olympique, because they have the same situation in terms of travel and international virus-control measures.”
McNamara said the relationship between Catalans and Toulouse was proving beneficial to both parties during this time of uncertainty, and plans were being made for the two teams to meet up before their respective seasons begin.
“At least now that the start-date of the championship has been announced, we and Toulouse can get into some strong conversations about what we can do to support each other and, of course, look at the possibility of pre-season games as the season approaches.
“Our only option might be to play each other because we won’t be able to go anywhere else until things change, so we’ll have some closer dialogue this week to find out what dates might suit each other for pre-season games.”
The Dragons are still unable to resume full training at Stade Gilbert Brutus because of French government virus-control guidelines and the restrictions of financial support for players and staff, but McNamara says the players are in contact with each other regularly and keeping fit individually.
“We’re continuing to discuss with the relevant French authorities when it is appropriate to resume training as a squad and until then the players will continue with their personal fitness programmes,” said the coach.
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.