A French renaissance will take place at Catalans Dragons this year, with Paul Seguier leading the charge of young players coming through the ranks at Stade Gilbert Brutus.
Seguier has been on the fringe of first-team selection for the past two seasons and the release of senior players like Rémi Casty, Sam Moa, Mika Simon and Antoni Maria has created space in the squad for Seguier and his team-mates to step up from the reserves.
Coach Steve McNamara has made it clear that the development of young players is the number one priority for Catalans and he sees Seguier as the spearhead of his mini French revolution.
“Paul’s been knocking on the door for a while now, but it has been difficult for him to break through, particularly last year with the limited number of games,” McNamara said.
“We are deliberately trying to reduce the average age of our pack this season and Paul is part of that process.”
The 23-year-old junior French international is in his fifth year at Catalans and he’s spent time in the reserves, and also on loan to Toulouse and Barrow Raiders, in an attempt to give him game-time.
This year, he is hoping to get more minutes in the blood and gold, as he tells League Express: “Steve has made it clear he want some younger French players coming through, so this is a great opportunity for me and others to break into the first team.
“I just hope we are able to play more games than we did in Super League last year, because there were very limited chances for squad members who are just outside of the matchday 17. A number of senior players have left the Dragons, so now it’s our time to show what we can do and prove to the coach that we can play.
“It has been difficult with Covid, because we can’t train together at the moment, so we’re not able to show to the coach what we can do and now hard we have been working on our fitness. We can’t go to the Brutus and be part of a normal squad session, we have to work on our individual programmes. I know the players are very competitive, so I think we’ll all be in good shape when we can finally regroup.”
Seguier appreciates the time he spent on loan and he picked up new skills, including the ability to speak English with an Aussie or PNG accent: “It was good for me to go to Toulouse and Barrow because it was the only way I could get some game time. There is only so much training you can do; it is during games where you learn the most and improve your skills.
“I picked up many things while on loan, including improving my English at Barrow because I was rooming with two Papua New Guinea players and I learnt a lot of interesting new words.
“Loan spells can be very helpful to a player. Everything was different at Barrow – including the weather – but the club was really friendly and I picked up so many new techniques. It’s good to see different training methods and understand the English culture a little more; all of this helps if you are going to make it in Super League. I need to bring this experience into my game.”
Seguier says the decision to appoint Ben Garcia as captain was a very popular one at the Dragons, adding: “Ben is the captain now and he’s a really good guy. On the field he gives so much energy to the team and works hard for his team-mates; he is a real inspiration.
“We have been very lucky to have had captains like Rémi Casty and now Ben, because they are very similar in that they lead by example and that lifts the whole team, he takes us forward. I learned so much from Rémi and it is the same now with Ben.”
Casty and Garcia have been mainstays of the French national team over the past decade and Seguier too has international ambitions.
“I would love to wear the French shirt in the World Cup,” he says.
“But my first objective is to play well for Catalans and to get as many games in as possible. If the French coach wants me then of course it would be an honour, but I can only do this by gaining game-time with the Dragons.”
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