sky-live:-catalans-vs-hull-kr-talking-points

Sky Live: Catalans vs Hull KR talking points

A place in the Super League Grand Final is at stake when Catalans and Hull KR go head-to-head in Perpignan

A place in the Super League Grand Final is at stake when Catalans and Hull KR go head-to-head in Perpignan

We look at what is being said and team news ahead of the Super League semi-final clash in Perpignan between Catalans Dragons and Hull Kingston Rovers, live on Sky Sports…

Catalans chief Guasch daring to dream

If Catalans were to go on and complete a historic Super League Grand Final triumph on October 9, it would represent not only a ground-breaking moment for rugby league as a whole but also reward the faith of the French club’s primary backer, Bernard Guasch.

CEO Guasch, a stand-off for the club’s forerunners XIII Catalans and Saint-Esteve in his playing days, has seen the Dragons through thick and thin ever since their entry into Super League – not least of all during the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic over the past two years.

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And while the Challenge Cup success of 2018 was a proud moment for him, the 61-year-old has no doubt the emotions from that August afternoon at Wembley would be eclipsed by being crowned Super League champions.

“To lift the Challenge Cup was a historic moment but I believe Old Trafford would be more significant,” Guasch said.

“It would be one of the best days of my life. It would be one of the most important moments in rugby league.”

To stand a chance of doing that, the Dragons must beat Hull KR in Thursday’s semi-final, having been eliminated from the play-offs at this stage last year when they were beaten 48-2 by eventual champions St Helens, who face Leeds Rhinos in the other semi-final on Friday.

Catalans have already claimed the League Leaders' Shield in 2021 and are aiming for a first Grand Final appearance

Catalans have already claimed the League Leaders’ Shield in 2021 and are aiming for a first Grand Final appearance

Catalans will, however, have the backing of a vocal and partisan crowd at Stade Gilbert Brutus and head coach Steve McNamara believes the wider Northern Catalonia region beyond Perpignan and the rugby league community has been energised by the club’s exploits.

“The thing about the area of Catalan is, even if they are not rugby league fans, people will support the club because of the patriotism and support for the Catalan region,” McNamara said. “That will be there in force on Thursday night.

“Now, to get a game of this magnitude is great. It will be a special occasion, there’s going to be a tremendous atmosphere.”

Smith calls on Hull KR leaders to step up again

Catalans’ League Leaders’ Shield triumph ensured they had a week off to build up to the semi-finals, while Hull KR faced a tough trip to Warrington Wolves in the elimination play-offs. However, the sixth-placed side overcame the odds to stun the Wolves with a 19-0 triumph.

Hull KR head coach Tony Smith says that this Super League season has already been an incredible journey as they prepare to take on Catalans Dragons for a place in the Grand Final

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Hull KR head coach Tony Smith says that this Super League season has already been an incredible journey as they prepare to take on Catalans Dragons for a place in the Grand Final

Hull KR head coach Tony Smith says that this Super League season has already been an incredible journey as they prepare to take on Catalans Dragons for a place in the Grand Final

It will take a performance of that magnitude to defeat the Dragons in Perpignan and reach the Grand Final for the first time in the Robins’ history, having been beaten in the three previous meetings with the table-toppers this season.

The biggest winning margin for Catalans in those matches was seven points though, the others being two and one-point losses, and Rovers head coach Tony Smith is looking to tap into the resolve shown by his team in last week’s match at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

“I’ve learnt a lot about this group as we’ve gone on this season and it’s just about character,” Smith told Sky Sports News. “We were terrific last week, and our leaders stood up and some of our young guys stood up as well.

“We’re going to have to do that again and some more if we’re going to progress, but nothing is being taken for granted that’s for sure.”

Stevie Ward says Hull KR's victory over Warrington Wolves was 'shock of the week' and looks ahead to the semi-finals of the play-offs

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Stevie Ward says Hull KR’s victory over Warrington Wolves was ‘shock of the week’ and looks ahead to the semi-finals of the play-offs

Stevie Ward says Hull KR’s victory over Warrington Wolves was ‘shock of the week’ and looks ahead to the semi-finals of the play-offs

Hull KR’s play-off push comes just a year after finishing bottom of the table in the pandemic-affected 2020 season and Smith acknowledged the rapid progress of his side may have surprised many observers.

But the two-time Grand Final-winning coach had seen positive signs from his team even during those adverse periods.

“We’ve got good leaders and there has been some good investment from our owner Neil Hudgell, and he’s been able to support us as well as the players getting better and determined,” Smith said.

“It takes time to build things and we were building last year. Even though last year we didn’t have the results go our way, we were forming into a good team and we’ve been able to progress – probably quicker than some have predicted, but it’s been great fun so far.”

Team news

Man of Steel nominee Sam Tomkins could be back in action for Catalans against Hull KR

Man of Steel nominee Sam Tomkins could be back in action for Catalans against Hull KR

Catalans full-back Sam Tomkins, who picked up a knee injury in his team’s last match of the regular season, has been included in McNamara’s initial squad which is virtually at full strength.

Hull KR coach Smith is considering risking winger Ryan Hall, who tore a bicep three weeks ago. He takes the place of half-back Rowan Milnes who picked up a shoulder injury against Warrington, but Smith will also check on the fitness of forwards Albert Vete, George Lawler and Korbin Sims.

Named squads

Catalans Dragons: Arthur Mourgue, Tom Davies, Samisoni Langi, Dean Whare, Fouad Yaha, James Maloney, Josh Drinkwater, Gil Dudson, Micky McIlorum, Julian Bousquet, Matt Whitley, Mike McMeeken, Benjamin Garcia, Benjamin Jullien, Mickael Goudemand, Matthieu Laguerre, Joel Tomkins, Joe Chan, Sam Kasiano, Sam Tomkins, Jordan Dezaria.

Hull Kingston Rovers: Ben Crooks, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Ryan Hall, Jordan Abdull, Albert Vete, Korbin Sims, Brad Takairangi, Kane Linnett, Jez Litten, George Lawler, George King, Matty Storton, Will Dagger, Mikey Lewis, Joe Keyes, Will Maher, Luis Johnson, Muizz Mustapha, Will Tate, Tom Whur, Jimmy Keinhorst.