Expansionist Blog: A Super League derby between Toulouse and Catalans would work wonders for rugby league in France

Drew Darbyshire

Just imagine how much rugby league would grow in France if Toulouse Olympique and Catalans Dragons were in Super League.

The Dragons are of course in Super League at the moment, albeit not doing as well as they were four or five years ago.

Meanwhile, Toulouse are flying high in the Championship at the moment, with Sylvain Houles’ side sitting in second, just three points behind leaders Toronto Wolfpack.

This blog will probably wind up many people, but if we want to improve the sport as a whole, we have got to try and expand outside of the M62 corridor.

Despite where they are currently placed in the Super League ladder, Catalans are a successful franchise, there is no doubt about that. Attendances have gone down a little this season due to their poor form, but not by much.

The Dragons have got a loyal fanbase and solid facilities at the Stade Gilbert Brutus in Perpignan. They have got a number of France internationals in their squad as well, including the likes of Fouad Yaha, Rémi Casty, Benjamin Garcia and Benjamin Jullien. They even run a successful academy, too, which has produced players like Morgan Escaré and Romain Navarrete.

Catalans take a lot of stick at times, but let’s be fair to them, they put France on the rugby league map and made people known to French rugby league.

Toulouse are doing all the right things as well and are so unlucky not to be in Super League right now. They have a solid home in the Stade Ernest-Argeles and the majority of their squad are French.

Olympique are not afraid to branch out a little and bring in overseas recruits either. They pulled off some big coups ahead of the 2018 season, having signed New Zealand international Sam Rapira, USA prop Eddy Pettybourne and most recently Italy star Chris Centrone.

Houles is a confident coach and it looks like the team love playing under his management, plus he tries to bring through as many homegrown players as possible which can only be good for the future of France.

French rugby league is in an okay state at the moment, but it could be so much better than what it is.

Toulouse are striving for promotion and have been for a couple of years now, so it is looking likely that we will see them in Super League at some point in the future.

Meanwhile, the Dragons are struggling, but if they can avoid relegation this season and come back with a bang next year, then French rugby league would certainly be on the rise.

If Toulouse and Catalans were both in Super League, it would give the clubs a derby game, which would be played at least three times per-year, and it would attract more spectators to the games.

The French derby would attract not only French fans to the games, it would intrigue a lot of rugby league fans. If it was televised, it would gain high viewing figures.

Take the Wigan-St Helens or Hull derbies as an example, a lot of people like watching them, not just fans of those respective clubs. That’s because of the atmosphere, the entertainment value, the biff, the talent, the tries – everything.

And that’s what the French derby would bring. The two teams would grow on the back of them both being in Super League and the France national team would be better for it in future tournaments as well.

Catalans and Toulouse both need to be in Super League to benefit rugby league in France.