Catalans captain Remi Casty has called on the French Federation to unite with the new Challenge Cup winners to build a strong platform for Rugby League across the entirety of the country: including possibly a return to Paris.
Casty and Catalans became the first foreign side to win the Challenge Cup on Saturday when they defeated Warrington, marking potentially the most important moment in French rugby league’s history since the sport was outlawed by the Vichy government in the 1940s.
And with Les Dracs creating history, Casty insists they cannot afford to spurn this glorious opportunity to spread the game across France – including the capital, where Rugby League has maintained little presence since the Paris Saint-Germain project was disbanded in 1997.
“It’s in our hands, the French Federation has to come with us: let’s go,” he said.
“First of all we have to see the French national media and talk about this story. We have to sell the story to the national media in France. After that we can move to other regions.
“We have to have a good opportunity for sure, but we have to be good as the French Federation and Catalans Dragons and also Toulouse. Toulouse is a big club.
“The French Federation has to push for a good team in Paris but we have to work very hard. In France it’s a lot about soccer. Soccer is huge and rugby union too, so it’s hard for us. It’s good winning the Challenge Cup but we need to win something with the French team and that is a big step.”
Casty continued: “It will be hard for sure. We have to work harder – it’s not just Catalans, it’s everywhere. We have to surf on this wave. It’s an opportunity we cannot miss. We missed the opportunity in the 1980s. The French Championship was big but some bad things happened and it went downhill fast. Now we have to grow up and quick.”
Casty also admitted that had Catalans suffered defeat in last year’s Million Pound Game, it could have been disastrous for the sport’s image and profile in France.
“It would have been the end of Catalans Dragons for sure, and impacted negatively on rugby league in France,” he explained.
“To win the Million Pound Game had a good impact on our group. We grew up in a bad moment as a team. It’s why we kept going to defend our line here because we knew where we were last year. We had a lot of pain at the beginning of the seasons.”
And Casty insists the next goal for Catalans is simple: become the first foreign side to become English champions by winning the Grand Final.
“We have got some good payers to come in like Sam Tomkins, so it will be interesting to work hard and achieve something in Super League,” he said.
“It’s not often you win the Challenge Cup and next year will be great. You have to work very hard again. We have to progress. For French rugby league too it’s a huge opportunity. It will be crazy in the south of France. Everyone wants to see us, a lot of kids want to play. We have to go with it.”