Wakefield Wildcats: Webster expects a physical battle in the Dragons’ Den

James Webster.
James Webster.
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WAKEFIELD TRINITY WILDCATS won’t be taken by surprise if hosts Catalan Dragons get physical in this evening’s set-to.

Catalan had two players suspended following a stormy loss to Wigan Warriors last week and Wakefield boss James Webster said: “I saw that game and I’m glad I wasn’t playing in it!

“They’re a physical team, always have been, always will be. There were a couple of things that were borderline silly, but some things I thought really good. They’re playing really well, they pushed Wigan real close and if they’d not had two sin-binnings they might have gone close to winning that.

“They have a massive forward pack that likes to throw its weight around and we’ll have to be really good to compete.”

Webster – whose unbeaten five games in charge have all been at home – was assistant to France coach Richard Agar during last year’s World Cup campaign and said facing some of those players makes tonight a special occasion.

“I always look forward to Catalans,” he said. “I was lucky enough to spend six to eight weeks down there with the World Cup and I know my way around it well now. It’s always a good trip, more so as a coach than player. It’s tough to go play; it’s hot, intimidating and they’ve obviously got a great record over a long period of time there, but it’ll be good to get away and play a game. When you’re winning games you’re looking forward to the next one.”

Wildcats have already signed one of Catalan’s French internationals – prop Mickael Simon, who has been recalled to their squad for this evening – for next year and Webster refused to rule out more imports from across The Channel.

“There’s been plenty of people offered to me from France this year,” he confirmed. “It’s a little bit hard as the (Super League and French domestic) seasons overlap, but I got to watch four or five games when I went over there and I have a good understanding of the top 40 or 50 players.

“I think the French market should be utilised more in coming years. They’ve some decent kids coming through the ranks. I’ve not moved for anyone yet other than Mickael, but we have had some talks.”

Webster confirmed he has spoken to Agar about remaining part of the French coaching staff. “I had a quick chat with him,” he said. “Nothing’s confirmed yet simply because we’ve got to arrange some dates for pre-season and the like here.

“I’ve only had a quick look at the dates. They play three games and I have to speak to people above to see if they will let me do it as well. I haven’t committed to it yet, but I do know it’s on the radar.

“It’s a job I enjoy. I really enjoyed the World Cup. The boys were great to me and the French people. I learnt the lingo a bit and it was a very worthwhile experience.”

The pressure is off Wildcats, who have secured their First Utility Super League status with seven games remaining in the regular season, despite being among the favourites for relegation at the start of the campaign.

“I’m happy with that,” said Webster. “It’s good we can just worry about the last seven games now and nothing else. At start of the year the only real goal the bosses upstairs gave us was to get ourselves safe.

“It has been a massive effort from the club. I’ve said before the amount of people we let go and how late we got people in, plus the amount of disruption we had in the off-season, was all unprecedented. I’d never seen it before.

“At the start of the year I’d have bitten your hand off to be able to play the last seven the way we are now.

“I didn’t expect us to be safe with seven games and still 14 points to play for. It just shows what a big achievement it is.”

Jarrod Sammut, Scott Anderson and Danny Kirmond are back in contention for Wildcats, with Andy Raleigh dropping out from the team which beat Widnes Vikings last week.

Catalan Dragons from: Escare, Pryce, Pomeroy, Oldfield, Bosc, Elima, Henderson, Lima, Taia, L Anderson, Maria, Pelissier, Whitehead, Millard, Simon, Bousquet, Paea, Baitieri, Williams.

Wakefield Trinity Wildcats from: Mathers, Owen, Keinhorst, Lyne, Riley, Sykes, T Smith, Moore, Wildie, Scruton, Gilmour, Ryan, Washbrook, McShane, Tautai, Lauitiiti, Anderson, Kirmond, Sammut.

Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).

Kick-off: 5pm BST (6pm local).

Chris Chester.

Catalans Dragons v Wakefield Trinity: Chester happy with favourites’ tag