Opportunity knocks for Catalans Dragons and French Elite Championship

Edward Anderson

Previously, we asked whether having French teams in the English rugby pyramid was a benefit and for those who got beyond the headline to read the article, this week provided more food for thought.

Some breakout performances from French players, combined with Catalans vs Hull KR providing the highest match audience in 15 years and a drop goal finish should be enough to show why having Catalans in offers benefits.

Opportunity or Necessity?

However, in many ways the first weekend back in Super League for Catalans highlights the questions that still haven’t been answered. How much more TV and commercial exposure could the game get by putting Toulouse in that mix? I’d be confident that Toulouse vs Catalans could have a good chance to break viewing records in the UK, let alone France, if we put them in.

A more awkward question for Catalans is how much do we have Covid to thank for the emergence of more French players in Catalans team, such as try scorer Mathieu Laguerre? We got to see a higher rate of French players in the Catalans team for some time and before a second half implosion, they looked comfortable.

There have been precious few positives to Covid but if we are scrambling for silver linings, Catalans’ financial constraints and therefore need to play more French players (as opposed to foreign imports) is one we can see.

Avignon on the March

March has seen a storming month for Avignon and their dominating form continued against Toulouse’s reserve team, sweeping them aside 64-12. Although all eyes have been on Tony Gigot, another player is building a name for himself.

Pat Moran, who had signed for Ottawa having been at Widnes during the terminated 2020 campaign, took the risk and hopped on a plane (in the middle of a pandemic no less) to take a shot at Elite 1.

His bravery in making the decision and hard work has been rewarded with man of the match performances and regularly showing up in the Elite 1 team of the week.

For a young man who has struggled to have a consistent run in one team and the harm to development that does, his success will hopefully continue. Could we see him finding his way back into the English pyramid with Toulouse before the season’s end? If he keeps this up, I wouldn’t back against it.

What Pat does show is the obvious benefit that building up Elite 1 could have to the development of talent that hasn’t had a fair crack of the whip in the UK. It also shows yet another benefit in keeping Elite 1 running at a different cycle to the RFL’s tournaments. Should Elite 1 get to a RFL Championship standard across the board, it offers a proving ground for young French and British players who can play a few months in France before searching in the UK for a contract.

However, just like Catalans this year, it’s going to need Elite 1 to prioritise developing our own players over bringing in Southern Hemisphere imports.

Target 2022

A brief note on the interview with FFRXIII President Luc Lacoste and the continuing positives coming from France.

If you’ve missed it, I urge you to take a look but for me, of great importance is the desire to create ‘events’ for French Rugby League. Namely, the Elite Grand Finals Day and the Lord Derby Cup final.

It’s great having fans have the opportunity to go to Toulouse or Catalans but of greater benefit for French Rugby League would be if we all support one day to give FFRXIII a day they can promote to sponsors and turn into a commercial success.

Let’s hope come 2022, British Rugby League fans and governing bodies are doing everything we can to assist the French to make that possible.

Subscribe to The Final Hooter on Apple Podcasts and get involved with the free-to-play Fantasy Rugby League 2021.

Rugby League Nostalgia is here! Get involved with Love Rugby League’s new group on Facebook to share all your rugby league nostalgia and celebrate the rich heritage of our sport.