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CATALANS Dragons coach Steve McNamara believes he has discovered the explanation for his team’s wildly contrasting performances in 2019.
The French club have twice been nilled in the first two-and-a-half months of the season but are also the only team to have beaten Super League pacesetters St Helens and Warrington.
McNamara says the team underwent some “soul searching” after their most recent humbling performance and — in advance of the visit of his old club Hull to Perpignan today — says the simple answer is hard work.
“We forgot what we built our team on last season and the season before to a certain extent when we stayed in Super League, when it was all effort based,” said the former England boss.
“We dropped off in that area. We were probably getting a bit ahead of ourselves and not recognising that we have to work hard first.”
McNamara also pulled off a tactical masterstroke by switching Sam Tomkins into the role of chief playmaker and he responded with a man-of-the-match display in the Catalans’ 18-10 win over Saints in Perpignan last Saturday.
“I thought Sam controlled the game really well at six and Tony Gigot had some really nice touches as a full-back,” McNamara said. “We made a tactical change but, if you’re not investing heavily in terms of effort first, then none of that will come into play.”
McNamara will have to change a winning team after losing Matty Smith with a minor bicep injury which he hopes will keep the former England scrum-half out for only a week or two.
On the plus side, the Dragons see outside back Dave Mead return from a six-match injury absence, along with second rower Benjamin Garcia, which enables McNamara to plug the gap.
“We’ve a bit of moving around to do but we’ve got plenty of options,” he said. “Mead and Garcia have been missing for a long period of time and they are two very influential players for us.”
Hull see the return of England utility back Jake Connor from injury and, although coach Lee Radford says he still has 11 players missing, he cannot expect any sympathy from his old Bradford teammate McNamara.
“We’ve had eight senior players missing, it’s part and parcel of the game,” he said.
“We’re not in a position to worry about opposition teams and what they’ve got or not got.
“They’re a good team and getting Jake Connor back is a huge boost for them.”
McNamara’s men have a chance to leapfrog their visitors into the top five but that could depend on which Dragons team turns up at the Gilbert Brutus Stadium.
“Hopefully the one that was full of effort and commitment like last week,” McNamara said.
“We certainly let ourselves down the week before at Wigan and we had another bad performance a couple of weeks before that against Salford.
“We’ve had a lot of soul searching into why those performances happened and we certainly rectified some of that going into the St Helens game.
“I think we’re ready to play good again this week, to be honest.”
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