It’s been a long pre-season but we’re finally on the cusp of Super League once again with Thursday marking the opening fixture, and a further two games on Friday night.
Of course the Championship is already underway with 13 games having been played so far at the time of writing, and favourites Featherstone Rovers have justified that favouritism so far.
Two dominant wins, both over supposed play-off contenders in Keighley and Halifax, has planted them top of the tree to earn promotion to the top table.
However for most fans it is about that top table and that elite division of rugby league, something we finally get after five months off when Warrington host Leeds on Thursday evening.
Friday sees two fixtures with new boys Leigh Leopards hosting Salford but it’s Catalans Dragons who are set to make the trip to Belle Vue to face Wakefield Trinity that are making the news at the moment.
The French side have had a difficult pre-season, something head coach Steve McNamara has been very open about, and injuries have consumed it.
It’s now been confirmed in French publication, France Bleu, that four of the Dragons biggest stars will miss their round one game.
We already knew that Fouad Yaha, the Perpignan side’s leading every try-scorer, would miss up to five months of the season following surgery on a dislocated shoulder.
The news surrounding Yaha broke at the same time that it was revealed both England stars Mike McMeeken (arm) and Sam Tomkins (knee) had also undergone off-season surgery, after the World Cup.
France Bleu spoke with Thomas Bosc, assistant coach to McNamara, and they’re reported that Yaha will be joined on the side-lines by both McMeeken and Tomkins, as well as Samoa star Tyrone May who dislocated his hip in the World Cup opener against both of his English teammates.
Bosc had said: “We did the preparation we needed, now we will work specifically on Wakefield. They played a lot of friendlies where we could study how they were developing this year. They have new recruits who bring a plus to this team. And then, at the end of preparations, everyone is happy! Now it’s time for the serious stuff.”
That wasn’t before the publication themselves confirmed the news that Catalans would be without the four key players.
“Four Dragons will be forfeited for the start of the season: Sam Tomkins Fouad Yaha, Mike McMeeken, and Tyrone May.”
The lack of a full-strength squad comes off the back of a less than full-strength pre-season in which the Dragons played just one fixture, a friendly against a select 13 from the French Elite One division, in essence the French ‘B’ team.
That was a game the Perpignan side stormed to victory in but in contrast to their opening game opponents, Wakefield, it’s less than ideal preparation.
Trinity managed to get four games under their belt, securing three wins before fielding what was effectively an academy side against Tony Smith’s Hull FC.
The weakened Catalans side and strong form that Trinity have carried in pre-season, in addition to the narratives of Tom Johnstone returning to Belle Vue and Samisoni Langi potentially facing his former side, could make for a brilliant spectacle on Friday night.