KAINE GREENWOOD (@RetroPress) takes his outstanding Rugby League insight to France on Saturday evening for Warrington’s visit to Catalans in Super League.
Catalan Dragons v Warrington Wolves | Saturday 17.00 | Sky Sports 3
The RFL continue to invest in the idea of expansion. Just this week it was reported they will subsidise Championship One club Toulouse to the tune of £75,000 as well as helping British-based sides travel to games on the other side of the channel.
It is right, too, because if you don’t expand and improve you stagnate or, even worse, die.
This is a game between two sides who spent the 2015 campaign stagnating.
It is not that either of these sides are dull but the Super League XX versions of both did little more than underwhelm.
An 80-0 walkover of Wakefield was about all that was noteworthy in ’15 for the Wolves while the Dragons never saw the best of recruits, like injury-hit half Todd Carney, to really get a run of form going.
In short, both are far better than they showed and appear to have been reignited by their shrewd investments in certain players for 2016.
The Dragons seem to have an affinity to the NRL in every recruitment drive they undertake and their large turnover in personnel this year includes a number of new additions from the world’s premier competition.
Of the 19-man squad named here by Laurent Frayssinous, nine are from the golden shores of Australia or New Zealand.
Dave Taylor, nicknamed ‘The Coal Train’, is undoubtedly the pick-up of real note, steaming into the action from the off, which has resulted in three Man of the Match displays (three tries) despite a mixed 2-2 start.
Taylor’s performances may have him as a leading contender for the Albert Goldthorpe Medal but 25-year-old academy product Tony Gigot has come into the fold at the number one spot in similar effective fashion after previous shirt holder Morgan Escare had a series of personal failures in a misfiring team.
The early signs for Warrington are even more eye-catching as they take their travels to France bouncing. They sit perfect in the standings at the moment and come off a buzzer-beating victory against Salford Red Devils.
That was a game they should’ve lost, a game frankly they would’ve lost at any stage of the 12 months before this.
Tony Smith – whose brother Brian left Wakefield this week – is well-versed in winning, however. While his approach to this season wasn’t about a real overhaul he recognised the need to add nous to the club’s young ranks.
Chris Sandow, although a mid-season capture last season, was responsible for the match-winning drop goal in Round 4 and former NRL stalwart Kurt Gidley has bedded in superbly, leading from the front despite his back field position.
A further boost comes in the news that off-season capture Gidley has shaken off a knock to return to the 17 taking the field this week.
This pack of Wolves appear like a side worthy of bookmakers’ confidence in making them favourites to finish with the overall crown in October.
Whether they win on this trip could depend on how well they deal with the defensive line efforts that are routinely called for on a visit to the South of France. Either way, I take the view that both sides will post a number of scores.
SkyBet are offering the opportunity for us to back either Warrington’s impressive Kurt Gidley OR new Dragons tough-man Taylor to score a try at 8/11. And while I wouldn’t put anybody off in the slightest I am confident enough that the French sides’ 19-and-a-half stone brute will continue to have a sizemic role this season, to roll the dice on selecting him alone at a far greater return of 7/2 (William Hill).
In a game that should follow the trend of points being posted in the South of France (Catalans alone averaged 32.3 points-per-game in the Stade Gilbert Brutus) the form of full-back Tony Gigot (13/8 Ladbrokes) means I also select him – he tends to be the first on hand in the support line for offloads.
Both of these men struck in the previous home fixture versus Leeds Rhinos, a repeat would expand our bank nicely and can’t be ruled out. Still, reducing our expectations to seeing just one of these two red-hot stars celebrating would still see a profit.
Catalans Dragons v Warrington Wolves – Dave Taylor to score a try at anytime (7/2 William Hill)
Catalans Dragons v Warrington Wolves – Tony Gigot to score a try at anytime (13/8 Ladbrokes)
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