Catalans Dragons head coach Steve McNamara says Toulouse Olympique are his club’s ‘enemies’ for this week in the build-up to the pair’s inaugural Super League French derby tonight.
When the pair meet at the Stade Gilbert Brutus tonight, it will be just the eighth-ever game in Super League not to include an English club. It will also be the first-ever encounter between two sides from over the English Channel.
Having met in pre-season friendlies over the last few years, Catalans and Toulouse now get to do battle on the main stage in front of the Sky Sports cameras for a 19:30 (GMT) kick-off.
Both McNamara and Toulouse boss Sylvain Houles have been speaking prior to the meeting in Super League’s ‘Rivals Round’, with the former confirming there’s a battle to be had.
Steve McNamara: ‘Ultimately, we’re arch rivals’
“We really wanted Toulouse to get up into Super League and there’s massive mutual respect from both clubs, but ultimately we’re enemies,” said McNamara.
“Ultimately, we’re arch rivals and ultimately, it’s the derby match. All of that [respect] goes out of the window for this week.
“It was an atmosphere I’ve never experienced anything like before in rugby league [when the pair met in January for a friendly]. It had a real different feel to it.
“The French boys have fought so hard to keep their game alive and for it to go from strength to strength over the years.
“[Stade Gilbert Brutus] is a cauldron, it’s an inferno when it’s at its best and I’m sure it will be for this derby.”
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Houles hopes for French dynasty
Toulouse boss Houles – who also used to play for Olympique in the late 2000’s – focused on the French influence on Super League in his own pre-match talk.
Having led the club to the top-flight for the first time in its history, the 40-year-old wants to see rugby league across the country blossom.
“We want all the South West of France to look out for when next year’s derby is going to be, tick the date and make sure that the stadiums are packed.
“In Toulouse, we’ve got a 30,000-capacity stadium where the soccer team play and that’s the vision, one day the derby will be played there.
“We’re bringing the pride of representing the city [into Thursday’s game]. It’s a derby but within the country so it’ll be who the best team in France is.
“[The friendly] was a little bit tasty, more than usual.”