Sports

Match Preview – Catalans vs Wigan

Catalans face another tough test against unbeaten Wigan on Saturday

We look at what is being said as high-flying Catalans Dragons host Super League’s only remaining unbeaten team in Wigan Warriors on Saturday…

McNamara’s recruitment plans reaping rewards

Catalans come into Saturday’s match on the back of their best-ever start to a Super League season with six wins from seven games, including becoming the first team to defeat St Helens in 2021 last weekend.

That victory put the Dragons right among the front-runners and they face another test of their credentials when they take on the only team still unbeaten in Super League this year in the form of leaders Wigan Warriors.

Catalans Dragons vs Wigan Warriors

May 29, 2021, 4:55pm

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It is another sign of the progress the team have been making under Steve McNamara, with off-season recruits like Gil Dudson, Mike McMeeken and Dean Whare all making big contributions along with the French youngsters starting to come through the system.

Speaking on the latest episode of The Coaching Manual, the man who guided Catalans to their first major trophy when they lifted the Challenge Cup in 2018 explained how anyone wanting to move to the south of France was not coming here just to take things easy.

“It may have been a reality in the past, but one of the things I did when I came here…I promised our recruitment would be based around making sure people want to come to Catalans to win games and be the best they can be,” McNamara told Sky Sports.

“The other bits on the side of that is if you are performing well, training well and doing well, that’s all a nice bit on the side of it. That’s not who we are and what we’re about now.

“It’s taken a while and I’m aware it hasn’t changed some people’s perceptions, but attracting players here now is: Do you want to be one of the first players ever to win a competition for Catalans Dragons?

“We’re 15 years old, we’ve won one trophy, we’re trying to strive to do the next one, so if you want to be here you’ve got to be here for the right reasons.”

England full-backs go head to head

A hamstring injury which is expected to rule Bevan French out for several months means Zak Hardaker is set to return to full-back when Wigan head to Perpignan for Saturday evening’s Super League clash.

The 29-year-old began the season in the position he made his name in while French was unavailable, putting in a string of impressive performances, and could well find himself up against another former Wigan No. 1 in Sam Tomkins.

Zak Hardaker will return to full-back for Wigan against Catalans

Zak Hardaker will return to full-back for Wigan against Catalans

Although he was a late withdrawal from last week’s 20-16 win over St Helens after suffering an injury in the warm-up, Tomkins is set to return for the Dragons and Warriors head coach Adrian Lam expects a fascinating contest between two of the players vying for a place in Shaun Wane’s England team.

“We’ve prepared for Sam to play,” Lam said. “Zak has been wanting to get back to full-back since the Hull game, I guess to put right what was wrong there, so I’m sure he will play well for us this weekend.

“He wasn’t happy with his last performance. He’s chomping at the bit to get going.”

Wigan go into the match on the back of a narrow 17-16 win over Salford Red Devils last weekend and will face several players who know the club well including Dudson, Tomkins and his brother Joel, Micky McIlorum and Tom Davies.

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Jackson Hastings kicked a late drop goal as Wigan beat Salford in the Betfred Super League on Saturday.

Jackson Hastings kicked a late drop goal as Wigan beat Salford in the Betfred Super League on Saturday.

Lam is in no doubt the fact there are several ex-Wigan players in the Dragons side presents an added danger to his team, but is hoping the Warriors can channel the spirit of last September’s 28-12 win at Stade Gilbert Brutus.

“They recruited really well in the pre-season and they’ve also got a lot of ex-Wigan players that know how we play probably more than anyone,” Lam said.

“It was a really difficult time for us going there last year and getting the win was a special one that turned the season for us. We see it as another opportunity for that.”

Team news

As well as Tomkins being available, last week’s other late withdrawal Sam Kasiano is back in contention for Catalans too. However, McNamara has called up youngsters Corentin Le Cam and Cesar Rouge in the absence of injured pair Fouad Yaha and Alrix Da Costa.

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Highlights as Catalans Dragons became the first team to defeat St Helens in the Betfred Super League in 2021.

Highlights as Catalans Dragons became the first team to defeat St Helens in the Betfred Super League in 2021.

Wigan boss Lam welcomes back captain Thomas Leuluai from a five-match absence with a sternum injury. Centre or second rower Willis Isa is also expected back after sitting out the win over Salford.

Named squads

Catalans Dragons: Arthur Mourgue, Tom Davies, Samisoni Langi, Dean Whare, James Maloney, Josh Drinkwater, Gil Dudson, Micky McIlorum, Julian Bousquet, Mike McMeeken, Benjamin Garcia, Benjamin Jullien, Mickael Goudemand, Matthieu Laguerre, Corentin Le Cam, Joel Tomkins, Joe Chan, Sam Kasiano, Jordan Dezaria, Ceser Rouge.

Wigan Warriors: Dom Manfredi, Zak Hardaker, Tommy Leuluai, Brad Singleton, Sam Powell, Joe Bullock, Willie Isa, Liam Farrell, John Bateman, Oliver Partington, Morgan Smithies, Liam Byrne, Harry Smith, Ethan Havard, Jake Bibby, Mitch Clark, Joe Shorrocks, Kai Pearce-Paul, Sam Halsall, Umyla Hanley, Jackson Hastings.



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