Catalans may struggle to replicate 2008

For Catalans Dragons, it would be hard to replicate the transformation they have provided over the last three seasons.nnA lot of people were angered and very critical – including myself – on hearing they were to be thrown into Super League in 2006.nnBut I am glad to be sat here eating humble pie after watching them reach a Challenge Cup Final, and also finishing third in the Super League table last year.nnStacey Jones was a pivotal cog in the side, and it is good to see that his retirement – or so we thought – did not have a significant impact on the side.nnBut one thing that I do think will be a massive negative this season is the change of coach.nnMick Potter has left a lasting legacy on the club that will be hard to follow, so new coach Kevin Walters has a hard task ahead.nnNot only that, but he has to satisfy the 7,000 ardent French fans that now turn out for the club at the Stade Gilbert Brutus.nnTheir recruitment this season has been fairly good, and with that also comes progression from the club’s academy which has been churning out some very good prospects, which no one has really taken any notice of.nnYou only have to look at the likes of Vincent Duport and Sebastian Raguin to see what can be achieved after a while.nnIt will be also interesting to see how the French side continue to cope without Justin Murphy on the wing, after he has provided Super League with an explosion of tries.nnWhile I don’t think Catalans have made any poor choices in recruitment, I think that the rest of the sides around them have recruited well too, which could see a bit more closeness in the final table come the end of the season.nn Mark’s Prediction: 6th in Super League table, Challenge Cup Quarter Finalists.nn Player to Watch: Casey McGuire.nnFan’s View:n The Catalans Dragons fan’s view is provided kindly by Jonathan Alty, a Wigan fan with an affinity to the French side.nnI live in Girona, one of the 4 provinces of Catalonia in Spain. The Catalans here feel very passionately about anything which allows them to celebrate their country and culture. Choosing the name ‘Catalans’ was a masterstroke! nnThe first year we went up to Perpignan there were 3 of us. My girlfriend, her brother and myself went to see the Catalans’ first ever Superleague game against my own team Wigan. Last year there were six of us and so far this year there are at least ten who are planning on joining us for the trip up to Perpignan, Catalunya Nord. nnThe decision to take a game to Barcelona will be a popular one and I hear plans are afoot to turn the day into a celebration of Catalanism. nnOn the pitch, although they’ve lost Sebastien Raguin to a long term injury, I think this will give an opportunity to Vincent Duport to step into the limelight and fulfil the promise that many of us think he has shown glimpses of in the past. nnI think many of the other clubs have strengthened well and so 3rd will be difficult to match this year. It will be interesting to see how Kevin Walters does, following on from miracle man Mick Potter. Personally I think Catalans will finish top 5 and yet again play some of the most entertaining rugby in the competition. Look out for another big season from Thomas Bosc.

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