The new Super League frontier takes the next step with the first derby between the Catalans and Toulouse
ARTHUR Mourgue and Fouad Yaha are Super League ready to add some French passion at Le Derby – as is Sylvain Houles.
Tonight is the moment rugby league expansionists have dreamed of – and traditionalists dreaded.
Catalans Dragons v Toulouse in Perpignan certainly doesn’t sound like something out of an M62 sport.
Wander around Perpignan, 800 miles from rugby league heartlands, and you can’t escape the crowds, with billboards all over the city promoting the historic clash between two French teams.
And those born and raised across the Channel cannot belittle what that means. There’s also respect for what the Catalans have done for the 13v13 code in France, taking it to the national stage instead of being locked in a small corner of the country.
Toulouse coach Houles said: “Having the Catalans against Toulouse means a lot. It’s also the first, so we have to make a mark.
“I spoke to the players about what this game means to them and to us. We have to make a bit of history – it’s about finding the right balance between the game and the occasion.
“The game will not change, but the occasion is a little different. It creates something special and we need a special day.
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“It’s good for French rugby league to have Catalans in the first two or three teams at the moment. They inspire us and we want to capture them real quick.
“We want to be the best team in France so it’s healthy to have them at the top and the talk around Toulouse is huge.”
The Catalans may be the higher-ranking of the two but league and cup defeats by St Helens have taught them what it takes to win trophies.
Mourgue said: “Playing against Toulouse is a big event and a big game for us.
“But after playing St Helens in the Challenge Cup, maybe we need to improve and change our mentality a bit and be more like last year – especially in defence.
“And this is the first opportunity we have to improve on what went wrong against St Helens.”
Team-mate Ben Jullien added: “Having two French sides in the Super League is huge for Rugby League in France.
“It will be a big game as Toulouse have improved a lot lately, but we also know a lot about their French players, they are good and we expect great performances from them.”
It wouldn’t be a French rugby match if it didn’t have an underdog, Tony Gigot steps forward.
Winner of the Lance Todd Trophy when the Catalans won the Challenge Cup in 2018, he is now the man who can torment the dragons.
Even winger Yaha – who is nearing the record as the Catalans’ all-time try-scorer – admits he can be a threat, telling SunSport: “Tony is a very skilled player and it’s hard to predict what he’ll do with that ball will make.
“He can create danger at any moment of the game and conjure something out of thin air.
“This game is a great opportunity for French rugby league. The country has produced some elite players and having two teams in the Super League allows more to play at the highest level.”
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/18256219/super-league-catalans-toulouse-france/ The new Super League frontier takes the next step with the first derby between the Catalans and Toulouse