High flying Catalans Dragons will be brought back down to earth at Stade Gilbert Brutus this week following their three-match winning start to the season.
Coach Steve McNamara is keen to keep his players’ feet on the ground following Saturday’s 26-6 Challenge Cup win over Wakefield Trinity and two opening victories in Super League.
The Dragons host their first home game of the season on Saturday with the visit of Salford Red Devils and McNamara says his team needs to play the brain game if they are to continue their recent winning momentum.
“It’s more a mental thing than physical,” McNamara told League Express.
“I think we’ve shown our fitness and stamina is up to scratch in our first three games, all of them really tough encounters that have gone the full 80 minutes, but if we are going to move on we need to focus and concentrate.
“We did some work more off the field than on it last week, with Thomas Bosc (assistant coach) in particular, and the players obviously listened to the plan and stuck to it.
“There’s a really good feel about the place at the moment. When things are going well you have to ride that wave as long as you can, but at the same time you must concentrate even harder to keep the roll going.
“That’s the challenge mentally. We’ve had a couple of good wins and performances are improving, but you have to maintain that focus and we will be stressing this during training at the Brutus this week.
“There’s a real desire and hunger in the squad, which is a good thing, but sometimes this can lead to mistakes and we’re working on ways that we can cover each other on the pitch when those mistakes happen.
“So far so good, we’re satisfied but also extremely cautious and we have to maintain that concentration if we’re going to continue in our current form.
“We’re finally at home again this week, so it will be a different week in terms of preparation and we have to make sure we’re ready for Salford.”
McNamara has made no secret of Catalans’ mission to promote young French players this season, but he took time to single out his seniors following Saturday’s cup win at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
He said, “There has been a lot of talk about the younger players at the club, but some credit should go to the seniors. Our new signings Gil Dudson, Mike McMeeken and Dean Whare are experienced professionals and it is benefiting our group.
“And aside from Sam Tomkins, who’s rightly grabbing the headlines, it’s our seniors Maloney, Garcia, Bousquet, Drinkwater – you could name them all – who are stepping up.
“There’s some competition at the moment, real pressure to get a shirt, the young players are pushing the seniors for places, which is exactly what you want.”
McNamara said it was too early to form any opinions about how the season would progress, but he predicts better days for Trinity.
“It’s still way too early to make any predictions. It’s going to be a huge year with many twists and turns, lots of back to back games and an international weekend.
“Teams evolve massively throughout a season. It’s very rare that you a see a team at the start of the season and they are playing the same way at the finish.
“Wakefield played well on Saturday, we had a lot of ball control and pressure but they were really strong in defence. What was most impressive to me is that we didn’t get impatient because we couldn’t break them down early.
“We had to go through a long period of time before we got the points that we needed and that was the real positive for me.
“Wakefield haven’t managed to get a win, but I know that they are potentially a lethal team this season. They have a real opportunity to do something special and I’d like to think we can do the same.
“It’s going to be a really tough competition and we’ve had to work extremely hard to get anything from our first three games and that’s the way it’s going to be moving forward.”
McNamara reported no injuries from the Wakefield match and he should have a full squad to pick from for this week’s Super League game against Salford.
Meanwhile Catalans forward Jordan Dezaria has signed a full-time contract with the club.
Dezaria, 24, originally joined the club Academy in 2015. He made his Super League debut in 2016 and made four appearances in 2017 before leaving the club to play with Leigh and then Toulouse. He came back to the club last year, joining the reserve team.
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