SL Preview: Catalans need to bounce back

Until the late headline signings of David Mead and Michael McIlorum, it was looking a little worrying for Catalans.

The Dragons were very fortunate to retain their Super League place at the end of last season after stumbling through The Qualifiers and getting out of a jail with a Million Pound Game win at Leigh – a far cry no doubt from the ambitions they had set when they joined the competition more than a decade ago.

As has been said elsewhere, Catalans seems to have lost a bit of their identity and drive over the past couple of seasons and former England coach Steve McNamara is tasked with getting that back.

They have lost one of the key components of their identity in the Super League era, though the retired Thomas Bosc will still be involved in the coaching set-up.

The departure of Richie Myler also means there are questions over the Dragons at half-back, with Luke Walsh a shadow of the player he was when he first arrived on these shores. Samisoni Langi was surprisingly handed the number six shirt, so perhaps McNamara has a few tricks up his sleeve.

The signing of McIlorum will add some steel to their pack which lost its way at times last season, despite the presence of some fearsome forwards – Sam Moa, Remi Casty and Greg Bird to name but three.

Clearly, the Dragons must do better than last year. Whether they have what it takes to get back in the top eight, remains to be seen.

But it’s worth noting that as a club, they have been investing in the structure below first grade, and it can only be a matter of time before they start to reap the benefits of youngsters coming through their Under 19s and Under 23s systems.

Half-back Lucas Albert could have a break through year, while the likes of prop Lambert Belmas are expected to get more game time as they hunt for the new breed of Frenchman to take over the mantle currently carried by Casty, but that has previously been taken on by the likes of Sebastien Raguin, David Ferriol and Jerome Guisset.

They need to turn the Stade Gilbert Brutus back to the fortress it once was and get the wins on the board early in the season to ensure they don’t have any more flirtations with relegation – especially with Toronto and Toulouse ready to pounce.

Coach: Steve McNamara
Assistant: TBC
Captain: Remi Casty
Key Man: David Mead
One to Watch: Lucas Albert

Ins: Lewis Tierney (Wigan), Antoni Maria, Samisoni Langi (both Leigh), Benjamin Julien (Warrington), David Mead (Brisbane), Michael McIlorum (Wigan)
Outs: Richie Myler (Leeds), Thomas Bosc (retired), Justin Horo (Wakefield), Jordan Dezaria (Leigh), Luke Burgess (Salford), Krisnan Inu (Widnes), Thibault Franck (Hull KR)

Squad: 1 David Mead, 2 Jodie Broughton, 3 Iain Thornley, 4 Brayden Wiiame, 5 Fouad Yaha, 6 Samisoni Langi, 7 Luke Walsh, 8 Sam Moa, 9 Paul Aiton, 10 Remi Casty, 11 Louis Anderson, 12 Benjamin Garcia, 13 Greg Bird, 14 Julian Bousquet, 15 Mickael Simon, 16 Vincent Duport, 17 Jason Baitieri, 18 Thibaut Margalet, 19 Michael McIlorum, 20 Lewis Tierney, 21 Benjamin Julien, 22 Lucas Albert, 23 Antoni Maria, 24 Alrix Da Costa, 25 Paul Seguier, 26 Lambert Belmas, 27 Ugo Perez, 28 Arthur Romano, 29 Georgy Gambaro, 30 Arthur Mourgue.

Prediction: 8th