Dragons chief staying positive

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21st March 2014

There is no crisis at Catalan Dragons but it would be "catastrophic" if the French club were to be relegated from First Utility Super League, according to chief executive Christophe Jouffret.

The Perpignan outfit are one of only two clubs - alongside London Broncos - to fail to claim a win in the first five rounds of the competition and their next two matches are against last year's table toppers Huddersfield Giants tomorrow and reigning champions Wigan Warriors next Friday.

With two clubs going down to the Championship at the end of the 2014 season to make way for a new 12-team league, the Dragons' slump is particularly untimely.

When they entered Super League in 2006, the Catalans' place was guaranteed for three years and that proved crucial after they finished bottom in their first season but this time there is no safety net.

Jouffret admits the prospect of the Catalans playing in the part-time Championship in 2015 is unthinkable.

"It will be dramatic and catastrophic for the Catalan Dragons, for the French rugby league, the French national team and for sure the Super League because without a French team, the Super League will never be a European competition," Jouffret told Press Association Sport.

"So it will be catastrophic for everybody but it will be sport too so we have to perform to stay in Super League.

"It's too early to talk about playing in the Championship. I'm an optimist and I cannot think we will be relegated at the end of the season.

"If that happens, we will do what we have to do but at this moment we are focused on staying in Super League."

The French club reacted to their recent 56-14 humiliation at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats by ordering the players back to Perpignan for heart-to-heart talks after which Jamal Fakir and Brent Webb were dropped indefinitely from the team.

Jouffret, who says the club are standing firmly behind head coach Laurent Frayssinous and his backroom staff, believes that produced a positive response the following week at St Helens, where they went down 40-22, and he is hoping for more improvement against Huddersfield at Stade Gilbert Brutus tomorrow.

"We had to take some decisions," Jouffret said. "We were not happy and the coach was not happy with the performances of Fakir and Webb. We asked them to play for the reserves and they declined.

"We had interviews with all the players and we asked them to do their best to perform the following week and they did. We need more improvement now.

"It's not a crisis, just a very bad start to the season."

The Dragons' start has been made more difficult by their own decision to play four of their opening five matches away from home, a gamble that appears to have backfired.

"It was our idea to start the season in England so that we receive the English clubs in summer when they will bring a lot of support," Jouffret explained.

"For sure, it's very tough now. We have made a lot of mistakes, we have had a few players suspended and a lot of injuries. We expected more from the start of the season but I am hoping we will improve and that started last weekend in St Helens."

In addition to losing up to half a dozen players to injury, the Catalans have had four forwards suspended inside the first five rounds and Jouffret believes his club are not being treated fairly by the Rugby Football League's judiciary.

He met with with referees chief Steve Ganson during a visit to England to watch his son Louis, an 18-year-old half-back, play for Warrington Wolves' academy team against Wigan last night, and is hoping to take some clarification back with him to Perpignan.

"The first people to blame are our players but we cannot agree with the results of the panel," Jouffret said. "We need more consistency.

"We want some similar action on the players from other teams. Unfortunately, they haven't had the same suspensions. So we need to understand how our players can improve.

"I took the opportunity to speak to Steve Ganson to ask him a few things and he explained a few things to me. We are happy to discuss when we don't agree with something."

Former Wigan prop Jeff Lima is the latest Dragons player to be suspended but Olivier Elima and Louis Anderson will return to face the Giants and the Catalans are also boosted by the return of Daryl Millard, Ben Pomeroy and Antoni Maria from injury.

Chris Bailey starts at loose forward for Huddersfield in place of the suspended Michael Lawrence.

Dragons chief staying positive 2013.superleague.co.uk
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