Preview: Catalans Dragons

It’s take two for Catalans Dragons as they look to improve on last season’s 12th place in Super League XII. Their achievements last season have unfairly gone unnoticed, presumably down to the fact that the increasing quality of Super League led to the lowest of finishes, but they certainly showed at times, what a good side they can be.

Of course the last few rounds of the season, where the Dragons’ players didn’t seem to be playing at all well, provides ammunition for the argument that no relegation will result in uncompetitive matches. Well it’s up to the Dragons this time round to ensure that this isn’t the case.

The injury to Stacey Jones was a big blow early on in the season in 2006 and although they replaced him with Michael Dobson, Jones’ leadership qualities were missed. He has been joined at half back this season by former Brisbane Bronco Casey McGuire, creating a combination that musn’t be underestimated. McGuire’s pace compared with Jones’ tactical guile will surely provide a match for most other partnerships in the league.

But a half back cant play without the ground work of a decent pack, and this is perhaps where Catalans have fallen just short in their Super League days to date. There’s undoubted Super League pedigree in the form of Jerome Guisset, but the likes of Mounis, Fakir and Fellous need to turn their potential in to steady, consistent performances.

To the credit of the Dragons, all of their close season recruits do add something to their team. Clint Greenshields brings agility to the full back position, and the capture of Adam Mogg was possibly one of the best deals done by a Super League club for 2007 – well done to the Dragons for snapping him up just before that Origin appearance. Try scoring machine Justin Murphy is joined on the other wing by Dmitri Pelo, an unknown quantity from UTC. It will be interesting to see how he copes at this level.

Unfortunately for the Dragons, three of their better home grown players have moved on – Julien Rinaldi to Harlequins, Laurent Frayssinous and Renaud Guigue. Their replacements will no doubt be up to the job, but as with Harlequins, the squad depth has to be questioned. Surely the point of having the franchise is to develop French talent, and the fact that 3 of their best Frenchmen have left is a blow.

Can their remaining home grown players rise to the challenge of leading the Dragons up the table? A lot will depend on their start to the season. If the top 6 is still a possibility come May and June, then there’s every chance that the Dragons will move on during the rest of the season. If not, then it might be back to square one yet again for the franchise.

Prediction: 12th – a good spell of recruitment from the Dragons, but have merely just replaced those who have left rather than improving the squad as a whole. The quality of everyone else will count against them.

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