We take a look at what’s being said and team news as St Helens and Catalans Dragons prepare to face off for a place in the Super League Grand Final…
McNamara eyes more history for Catalans
Steve McNamara has seen Catalans Dragons come a long way in a relatively short space of time since taking over as the French club’s head coach midway through the 2017 season.
From securing their Super League status that year with a 26-10 victory over Leigh Centurions in the Million Pound Game – having been 6-4 down at half time – to making history by winning the Challenge Cup the following year, the Dragons now stand on the verge of a maiden Grand Final appearance.
St Helens vs Catalans Dragons
November 20, 2020, 7:00pm
To reach next week’s final at the KCOM Stadium, they must first overcome reigning champions St Helens in Friday’s semi-final and McNamara is well aware what it would mean if Catalans were to go on and clinch the Super League title.
“In 2017 we were involved in the Million Pound Game and we were losing at half-time, so we were 40 minutes from being in the Championship,” McNamara said.
“From that game, we won the Challenge Cup, played a historic game in Barcelona which felt like a cup final and now we’re one step away from the Grand Final.
“This is the next step for this team. There are only four teams who have ever won the Grand Final and one of those [McNamara’s former club Bradford Bulls] is in the Championship.
“For me, that’s a blight on the game, it’s about time someone broke that mould and hopefully we will have a crack at that next week.”
Catalans must take on the seven-time Super League champions without Joel Tomkins and Michael McIlorum, though, as both were handed lengthy bans following incidents in last week’s first-round play-off win over Leeds Rhinos.
They are replaced in the 21-man squad by Alrix Da Costa and Benjamin Jullien, but otherwise the Dragons are unchanged from the side which defeated Challenge Cup holders Leeds.
Saints want to send Graham out a champion
Wigan Warriors are not the only team who have one of their icons retiring at the end of this season, with St Helens’ James Graham having previously announced he will be hanging up his boots when 2020 concludes as well.
Having returned to Saints following eight years in the NRL with Canterbury Bulldogs and St George-Illawarra Dragons earlier this year, the 35-year-old will make his final appearance at the Totally Wicked Stadium this evening.
Victory would mean a swansong in the Grand Final, which Graham won with St Helens in 2006, and head coach Kristian Woolf would like to send him out on a high.
“A game like this doesn’t need anything added to it,” Woolf said. “Everyone knows Jammer’s retiring, and everyone wants to make sure he finishes his career as positive as possible because he deserves that. That’s at the back of everyone’s mind.
“He’s a big-game player and his experience is going to be invaluable for us. We know what we’re going to get is every bit of passion and every bit of effort from him this weekend.”
Woolf has prop Alex Walmsley back in the side for the clash with Catalans after the prop missed the derby defeat to Wigan three weeks ago – the last time St Helens played a match following the early end to the regular season.
He is pleased to have Walmsley available again for what he expects will be a physical clash, and does not believe the suspensions of Tomkins and McIlorum will diminish the Dragons in any way.
“I don’t think the disciplinary stuff has any effect or changes things there,” Woolf said. “Whoever they throw out, it’s a big occasion for them and they are going to be at their best for it.
“It is something that really excites our blokes as well. You play the game because you like that physicality and it’s really important that we match that.”
“Catalans have to play the same way they played last week, only with different personnel. For St Helens, everyone talks about Jonny Lomax and the influence he has, the workman-like attitude James Roby brings to the side and the big pack with Alex Walmsley. But for me, the real engineer or commander-in-chief of that side is Lachlan Coote.”
– Former Super League winner and Sky Sports rugby league expert Barrie McDermott
Barrie’s prediction: St Helens to win.
St Helens: Lachlan Coote, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Zeb Taia, Dom Peyroux, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Morgan Knowles, Matty Lees, Kyle Amor, Aaron Smith, James Bentley, Jack Welsby, Joe Batchelor, Josh Simm, Lewis Dodd, James Graham.
Catalans Dragons: David Mead, Samisoni Langi, Israel Folau, Fouad Yaha, James Maloney, Josh Drinkwater, Remi Casty, Sam Moa, Matt Whitley, Benjamin Garcia, Julian Bousquet, Mickael Simon, Tom Davies, Benjamin Jullien, Alrix Da Costa, Mickael Goudemand, Paul Seguier, Jason Baitieri, Arthur Mourgue, Sam Kasiano, Sam Tomkins.
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