Toulouse hit by rugby league fever ahead of Super League debut

Drew Darbyshire
Matty Russell Toulouse SWpix

Photo: Toulouse Olympique / SWpix

The people in the city of Toulouse are getting right behind their rugby league team ahead their first-ever game in Super League.

Catalans Dragons will be joined by a second French team in the top flight this season. Toulouse Olympique went the Championship season unbeaten in 2021 as they won promotion.

Sylvain Houles’ side take on Huddersfield at the Stade Ernest Wallon on Saturday night in their maiden Super League match.

Speaking to the 5 Live Rugby League Podcast, new signing Matty Russell said: “It is definitely a big one for us this weekend, we are really excited for the occasion.

“We’ve had a few weekends off and even being in the city when the rugby union is on, it is something I’ve never seen before in the UK. If I try to describe, it is like being down south when the Six Nations is on. The whole city of Toulouse from any bar or cafe are just watching Toulouse and who they are against.

“Even just speaking to the people of Toulouse and the fans, they see us and straight away I think they just assume we are rugby players when there is a group of us playing cards or having a coffee. They are so excited, it is crazy.

“As soon as we say the word rugby league in Toulouse, the people are so excited to get to watch a game.”

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With Toulouse being the newly-promoted side, they will be the underdogs going into every match in Super League this season.

But Russell, who suffered relegation with Leigh last season, says making their home ground a fortress is vital to Super League survival.

He added: “My advice to the team as soon as I came in was about sticking together.

“Don’t get me wrong, there will be times where we will have short turnarounds where we fly from the North West and it might be against a Saints, Catalans, Wigan or Warrington and we will be on the negative end of the scoresheet there. We need to stick together throughout the year.

“We are going to be the underdogs but it is about turning up each week and giving everything and getting the win.

“I think we have an advantage over away teams travelling to France. I’ve done it many times with Warrington, it used to be a tough travel and if you came away with a win then you’d take that any day of the week. It is going to be tough for teams travelling here.”

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