Webster expecting toughest of tests on return to France

Wakefield Trinity Wildcats head coach James Webster
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats head coach James Webster
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Wakefield Trinity Wildcats head coach James Webster admits to being thankful he is retired after watching Catalan Dragons’ latest brutal display.

He will send his side out to take on the French powerhouses today, just a week after Catalan took part in a truly physical and bruising encounter with Wigan Warriors in Perpignan.

The hosts had two players – Vincent Duport and Gregory Mounis – banned for a total of five games following dangerous tackles in their 37-16 loss and Webster knows just what to expect when his side arrive.

“I saw that Wigan game,” said the ex-Hull KR scrum-half, who is hoping to extend his unbeaten run to six games since taking over at Belle Vue.

“I’m glad I wasn’t playing in it. Catalan are a physical team, always have been and always will be.

“There were a couple of things that were borderline silly but some really good things, too.

“They’re playing really well. They should have won at Leeds recently and went on a good run in between.

“Catalan 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. We’ll have to be really good to compete.”

Wakefield have been just that, though, under Webster’s command. Having secured their initial target of Super League safety, his side have real hopes of actually making the play-offs.

Ahead of this weekend’s round, Trinity had closed the gap to eighth-placed Widnes Vikings to just two points following their crucial victory over Denis Betts’s side nine days ago.

If they can win in Perpignan, the West Yorkshire outfit will be just two adrift of Catalan as well.

But Webster argued: “I think Catalan are odds-on to make the play-offs. They’ve a certain amount of games at home still which I think they’ll win and they’re already on 21 points.

“Hull KR are the big ones. If you’re talking about play-offs they’ve got a good run coming in. We play them the last game of the year so that could be interesting.

“If you went through looking at the draw, Hull FC have a tough one, we have, too, but Hull KR probably have the easiest while Widnes have a Challenge Cup semi – and maybe a final – to worry about.

“It’s going to be interesting. If we can beat Catalan we have a chance of making the play-offs but we need to win a couple more games if we’re to consider ourselves as having a chance.”

Webster, who takes charge of his first away fixture today after five straight home matches, was France assistant coach last year.

“I always look forward to Catalan,” he said, revealing he is in talks to continue as Richard Agar’s deputy at national level.

“I was lucky enough to spend six to eight weeks down there with the World Cup. 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.”