Super League: Catalans Dragons’ head coach Steve McNamara on what French clubs add to rugby league

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Catalans head coach Steve McNamara is in no doubt as to the value of French clubs in Super League

Steve McNamara’s rugby league career has taken him from representing his home city of Hull to playing and coaching at international level, and experiencing life in Australia, New Zealand and now France.

Given his wide experiences of the sport both on these shores and around the world, it is perhaps no surprise the Catalans Dragons head coach has an expansionist viewpoint when it comes to what to do to ensure the game thrives and flourishes at home and abroad.

Indeed, McNamara launched an impassioned defence of both the Dragons and Toulouse Olympique’s presence in the Betfred Super League following the win over Huddersfield Giants last month. However, he believes it is about more than just helping rugby league in France.

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Steve McNamara and Jamie Jones-Buchanan discuss the topic of having French rugby league clubs in Super League and why it is a good thing for the sport

Steve McNamara and Jamie Jones-Buchanan discuss the topic of having French rugby league clubs in Super League and why it is a good thing for the sport

“I don’t think it’s about French rugby league, I think it’s about rugby league in general,” McNamara told Sky Sports when appearing as a guest pundit during Toulouse’s trip to Warrington Wolves in Round 23.

“Across the game as a whole, we’ve been doing a lot of things similar for a number of years, and we’ve got a fantastic product on the field.

“Of course, I’ve got self-interest in France, but I also see what has happened throughout the whole of the game in France as well.

“I’m very passionate about the investment that has been made in France by the French clubs and potential government funding which can come from it.”

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Toulouse chief Cedric Garcia says the participation of French teams in the Super League can only benefit the competition

Toulouse chief Cedric Garcia says the participation of French teams in the Super League can only benefit the competition

Catalans’ introduction to Super League for the 2006 season came nine years after the failed Paris Saint-Germain experiment came to an end and has been an example of successful expansion, with the Perpignan-based club making history by lifting the Challenge Cup in 2018.

That was followed by claiming the League Leaders’ Shield and reaching the Super League Grand Final for the first time in 2021, being edged out 12-10 by St Helens at Old Trafford, with Toulouse becoming the second French side in the competition after winning promotion from the Betfred Championship last year.

Former England head coach McNamara is adamant it is not just at club level where support is needed as well, citing the need for the French national team to be playing regularly and believing Les Chanticleers are capable of providing competitive opposition.

“In the short 16 or 17 years as a club, Catalans Dragons has done as much as some of the clubs in the competition right now and there is potential for it to go even further as well,” McNamara said.

In the short 16 or 17 years as a club, Catalans Dragons has done as much as some of the clubs in the competition right now and there is potential for it to go even further as well.

Steve McNamara

“I think the international game is the biggest one as well. When I was coach of the England team, we had to make a fixture up against the Exiles, as they were then.

“The French team now, if they get their best players on the field – and I’ve worked with most of them every single day – that should be a competitive fixture.

“The game needs a whole new fresh look at what it’s about to do and how we’re going to go about that.”

On the field on Saturday, Catalans host a Salford Red Devils team overseen by Paul Rowley, who was involved in rugby league’s efforts to expand the professional game into North America as the first head coach of Toronto Wolfpack.

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And while ensuring a top-four finish and maybe even overtaking third-placed Huddersfield before the end of the regular season is at the forefront of McNamara’s mind, the 50-year-old wants to see a more collaborative approach across the world to keep rugby league growing.

“We are a small game in terms of across the world and there is quite clearly a differential in terms of finances, facilities and players available,” McNamara said.

“But if there is a real collective push to work together then we can produce something really special. We can only do what we can do on the field and then we need the help and support of everyone else to generate more money.

“But what’s happening right now at the Dragons in a short period of 16 or 17 years is pretty phenomenal.”

Named squads

Catalans Dragons: Arthur Mourgue, Tom Davies, Samisoni Langi, Dean Whare, Fouad Yaha, Josh Drinkwater, Gil Dudson, Micky McIlorum, Benjamin Garcia, Alrix Da Costa, Paul Seguier, Mickael Goudemand, Matthieu Laguerre, Tyrone May, Corentin Le Cam, Dylan Napa, Mathieu Cozza, Cesar Rouge, Romain Franco, Joe Chan, Sam Tomkins.

Salford Red Devils: Ryan Brierley, Ken Sio, Kallum Watkins, Tim Lafai, Joe Burgess, Brodie Croft, Marc Sneyd, Sitaleki Akauola, Andy Ackers, Elijah Taylor, Ryan Lannon, Chris Atkin, Jack Ormondroyd, Rhys Williams, Sam Luckley, Amir Bourouh, Deon Cross, Alex Gerrard, Tyler Dupree.

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