Steve McNamara wary as Super League leaders prepare for Challenge Cup winners

CATALANS DRAGONS don’t want to get bitten by Leigh Leopards as the race for the Super League playoffs enters its final phase.

Coach Steve McNamara is conscious of an unpredictable response from third-placed Leigh after their Challenge Cup success.

“We’ve played Leigh twice so far this season and both were extremely difficult games. So the only thing we can predict is a similar contest,” he said.

“It’s difficult to know how a team responds to winning the Cup; we will just prepare as we have done so far.”

McNamara will run the rule over injured first-teamers Siua Taukeiaho (pectoral), Jordan Dezaria and Manu Ma’u who both have ankle issues at this week’s training sessions in Perpignan, although the Dragons’ chief was pleased to see fullback Arthur Mourgue back at practice at Stade Gilbert Brutus following recovery from his own ankle issues.

McNamara was disappointed by the news that his star signing for this season would be returning to Australia at the end of the season.

Former Sydney Roosters’ frontrower Taukeiaho has announced he will be leaving at the end of the season, half-way through his initial two-year contract with the Dragons.

Taukeiaho cited family reasons for his early exit, adding, “It’s been a disappointing season with the number of injuries I have had.

“I love this place; I wish I could have stayed longer but I need to put my family first. I remain 100% focused on my objectives with the club until the end of the season.

“I will do everything to get my body right to help the team to win the competition. I haven’t signed anywhere else. If that happens, both clubs will then negotiate.”

Catalans’ President Bernard Guasch said, “We’ve had a discussion with Siua and we understand his decision to return to Australia.

“He is very frustrated with his season and would have liked to contribute more to the club’s performances.

“We know he is going to do everything he can to be competitive for the last games of the season and to help the team to achieve its objectives.”

Another departure from Les Dracs will be Director Of Sport Neil McIlroy, who is returning to rugby union after just one year at the Brutus.

Heading in the other direction is former Salford, St Helens and Huddersfield scrum-half Theo Fages, who is returning to his home town on a two-year deal.

A product of Perpignan’s Pia Donkeys’ junior system, the 29-year-old International left home at 16 to pursue a Super League career.

After coming full-circle, he said, “I’m very happy and excited to sign for Catalans Dragons and I can’t wait to wear the club’s jersey.

“It will be an honour to wear the shirt in front of my family, friends, and fans. I’m proud to have the opportunity to join this great squad. I will do my best to bring back home many trophies for the club.”

Coach McNamara added, “Theo has shown a huge desire and commitment to play for the Dragons and his return to France is great for the game here.

“He is a Catalan, a leader and a player who knows how to win. We look forward to welcoming him to our club in 2024.”