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Mike McMeeken warns St Helens not to expect a better version of the Catalans Dragons in the cup blockbuster

MIKE McMeeken has warned St Helens they will face full dragon fire in the south of France.

But the Catalans’ home fans are still remarkably relaxed when meeting one of their stars.

Mike McMeeken believes Catalans Dragons are better than the side St Helens faced on the opening day of the season

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Mike McMeeken believes Catalans Dragons are better than the side St Helens faced on the opening day of the seasonPhoto credit: SWPIX.COM

Last year’s Super League Grand Finalists face off again in the Quarter-Finals of the Challenge Cup, a replay of the opening game of the league season.

Then Steve McNamara’s men saw Gil Dudson sinning after the very first tackle and Dylan Napa later being sent off on his debut in the 28-8 loss.

But backrower McMeeken thinks two months later it will be a different story.

He said: “We’re a better team now than we were then. We were very hit and miss in this game.

“We leaked some soft tries, especially towards the end of that game. We were also lost in our attack.

“But we’re making good progress, even if we’re not running at full speed yet. We still have a little improvement in us.

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“In some games we shot very well, while in others we didn’t look ourselves. However, we should have our spine of choice back in place.

“We’ve been working on some things and we think we can do it right. We know we have to be close to being 10 out of 10 against a quality team like the Saints.”

Tonight’s clash will not only be broadcast live on the BBC but also live on free-to-air in France, another sign the Dragons are growing after lifting the trophy in 2018 and coming so close in the Super League last year .

However, the increased focus on them doesn’t mean that players will be harassed with autographs and selfies all the time.

McMeeken, 27, added: “The fact that it’s free-to-air over France shows how popular the game is over here.

“People want to see it. It’s a big event, an exciting game to be a part of.

Today's Challenge Cup Quarterfinals is a repeat of last year's Super League Grand Final

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Today’s Challenge Cup Quarterfinals is a repeat of last year’s Super League Grand FinalPhoto credit: SWPIX.COM

“It would be difficult for me to notice a greater concentration as I don’t speak French very well, but last year’s Super League semi-final saw a huge turnout which shows how people will be behind us.

“But people don’t really bother the players on a day-to-day basis, it’s much more relaxed. Perpignan is a big city while I’ve been to cities where rugby league beats its heart.

“Here you have the USAP Rugby Union and even the Canet Football Team. They recognize us and they sometimes ask for a photo, but I haven’t had too many of them yet.”

The Catalans, who play in Perpignan, will at least not mean a travel disruption for them after strong winds prevented them from flying to Huddersfield from their hometown.

That meant a trip to Toulouse, a flight to Doncaster, a late kick-off and a late or early return home.

McMeeken told SunSport: “It was quite eventful. We broke up around 12:30 and I didn’t get home until 7:00 the next day!

Steve McNamara has hit back at comments about the Catalans' late arrival at Huddersfield last week

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Steve McNamara has hit back at comments about the Catalans’ late arrival at Huddersfield last weekCredit: CATALAN DRAGONS

“From what I heard there was no problem until they got to the area. He tried to land several times but couldn’t, so he drove to Toulouse.

“That wasn’t why we lost, we were undisciplined in certain areas and made a few mistakes.”

Huddersfield boss Ian Watson said: “If they take the risk of traveling on the day they run the risk of missing the game and that’s something they need to watch.

“Once they got here, they were given longer than they probably should have been allowed.”

But boss McNamara hit back, saying: “There’s been a bit of criticism in the last week or so, I’m not sure why.

“To hear comments about it taking us too long after hitting the ground, I know it was April 1st, but it certainly wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.”

https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/18214698/challenge-cup-catalans-france-st-helens-england/ Mike McMeeken warns St Helens not to expect a better version of the Catalans Dragons in the cup blockbuster

Ashley

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