Super League coach reveals he started pre-season with just four players

With the relegation of Toulouse Olympique it means there is only one French club in Super League again with Catalans Dragons serving as the only team outside of the rugby league heartlands.

Head coach Steve McNamara has spoken on pre-season and referenced Toulouse’s relegation as a disadvantage for his Perpignan team.

Asked by French publication L’Independant if the side had finalised their pre-season game McNamara responded as such.

“Yes, we will play only one and probably against France B (February 4). It will be difficult to face Toulouse which resumes two weeks earlier than us, its championship. But, I hope we can do a session against them and the team reserves during training, as we have already done.”

The Dragons will only have one game in their build up to the season compared to most Super League sides having a minimum of three, some even having five.

The fact Toulouse no longer feature in the top flight has scuppered any chance of a domestic warm-up game given the early Championship start date, which McNamara can see positives and negatives about.

“We accept the situation. It’s a disadvantage on one side, but it’s an advantage on the other. We spent time on individual details that we wouldn’t have done if we had everyone,” McNamara told L’Independant.

The former England boss has also been derailed by many players returning late, with much of his squad representing their native France in the World Cup whilst the trio of Tomkins, McMeeken and McIlorum were also away with England.

Consequent to this the Dragons have held training sessions with as few as four members.

“We started with four, then seven. But I prefer to see the bright side of things. It’s like a teacher who has only seven students in front of him, including three new ones (Ma’u, Navarrete, Johnstone). It allowed us to have a particular attention for each one.

“The atmosphere and the connections between these seven players were very good. The internationals returned two weeks ago and the atmosphere is still great between them, as is the discipline and attentiveness.

“It will be important that everyone arrives in good condition from January 2nd. There will be the one-week course in Spain (January 9 to 13) and it’s the first time since I’ve been there that we’ve organized this course. It will be very important for us to live together for a week. We will define between us objectives, cohesion, physical state and freshness.”

McNamara’s side made the playoffs in 2022 but crashed out early in the first round as they succumbed to Leeds in a feisty affair that saw four cards, including new Warrington Wolves man Gil Dudson seeing red in his last ever game for the French outfit.

“We didn’t evolve to the level we wanted last season, whether in attack or defence, even though we finished in the Top 4. Yes there will be changes because we will have to be better than in 2022.”

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