Catalans in no rush to fill quota spots, says Steve McNamara

Catalans coach Steve McNamara says he is in no rush to fill the club’s quota spots as he aims to give the club’s youngsters a chance to shine in 2021.

Prop Gil Dudson (Salford) and back-rower Mike McMeeken (Castleford) are the only new faces so far and the Dragons have parted company with long-serving captain Remi Casty and fellow veteran front-rowers Sam Moa, Antoni Maria and Mika Simon.

In addition, half-back Lucas Albert has returned to the French Elite Championship, while wingers David Mead and Lewis Tierney have also moved on.

McNamara said: “We still have two quota spots available but we’re not in a mad rush to fill those.

“We made a conscious decision not to renew the contracts of some of our older players and it’s time to promote some of our players who have worked extremely hard over the last period of time.

“So the likes of Paul Seguier, Lambert Belmas, Arthur Morgue and Arthur Romano need to be given an opportunity and I’m very confident they will produce the goods for us.”

While their England-based Super League rivals have all begun pre-season training, the Dragons remain in limbo due to tighter restrictions imposed by the French Government to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The club’s offices at Stade Gilbert Brutus remain closed and the players are still on the French equivalent of furlough, known as chomage.

Two months until the revised start of the 2021 season, the Catalans players are training on their own in line with national guidelines but McNamara insists there is no need to panic.

He said: “We’re waiting for further instructions, from Government basically, some indication of what we can do.

“The players are fine, they’re getting some work done, it’s just that we can’t come together as a team right now.

“There’s lots of dialogue going on. We can’t worry too much about what might be. We’ve got to make the best of the situation.”

Championship club Toulouse are similarly affected but McNamara remains confident his club will be ready for the March 25 kick-off and says he expects the club to be in a position to play home games from the start.

Rugby union’s European competitions have been put on hold because of the situation in France but McNamara points out that travel corridors are still open for elite sport.

The Dragons played just three games in Perpignan following the resumption of the 2020 season in August and flew in and out of England on the day in a private jet for their other 10 fixtures.

That left owner Bernard Guasch with a huge transport bill and, although McNamara insists the chairman remains fully committed to the club, he says they are hoping for financial assistance from the Government.

Super League chief commercial officer Rhodri Jones told a media briefing on Wednesday that the Catalans are also considering setting up camp in England but McNamara is keen to play down that option.

McNamara said: “That would be the last resort. We are looking at all the various options, as we did last year, but it’s very unclear at this minute what the situation is going to be in a couple of months’ time.

“So we’re holding our nerve and will see how things develop.

“Bernard is 100% Catalans and he’s working extremely hard to help find solutions for every problem that gets thrown up. That’s his way.

“But we need some support without a doubt and we’re speaking regularly to people on both sides of the Channel in terms of finding the right solutions.”

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