Hull KR v Catalans Dragons: Boudebza aims to show home-town Dragons what they are missing

HE WAS born in Perpignan and grew up watching Catalans Dragons yet it is in east Hull where John Boudebza is gaining his crucial Super League education.

Shaun Lunt
Shaun Lunt

The locations could not be more different but it is an exercise that is clearly working for the France international hooker.

He joined Hull KR from FC Lezignan on a one-year deal last October and has started in each of the club’s previous three games.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Looking more authorative every time, Boudebza is doing a good job as he tries to make the spot, vacated by co-captain Josh Hodgson’s move to Canberra Raiders, his own.

Hull Kingston Rovers' John Boudebza. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).

Granted, the arrival of Shaun Lunt, the former England hooker who arrived this week on a season-long loan from Huddersfield Giants, is going to create plenty more competition.

Lunt is expected to make his debut tomorrow as Catalans arrive at the KC Lightstreams Stadium.

However, Boudebza, also named in the 19-man squad, will continue to try and make his own mark whenever the opportunity arises

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, he said: “Super League is different. It’s what I expected; there are less mistakes than in the (Elite One) Championship in France, the play is quicker and the players are stronger.

“But I’ve trained hard to play at this level and I am enjoying being here.

“I know I have to progress again, to work hard as I want to play more time.

“I played nearly 50 minutes at Warrington last week. But I want more.

“But I also know I have to improve all my game, and get more fitness in my legs.”

Given the 24-year-old’s calibre and background, it is perhaps surprising that he was never recruited by tomorrow’s opponents himself and given his shot in Super League with Catalans.

“I am from Perpignan and I grew up watching them when they first came into Super League,” he said.

“But I wasn’t surprised as they have got two good hookers (Ian Henderson and Eloi Pelissier) and have some hookers in reserve, too.

“I did play for the reserves in Catalans a few years ago but there wasn’t a good mentality at the time so I left the club.

“Now, though, there is. It’s very good and they are building the club up from the juniors.

“Yet for me it was a good decision to leave as I’m enjoying this now playing with Hull KR.

“Maybe if they call me later... but I don’t know as I am enjoying it at Hull and they gave me this chance.

“I’ve signed a one-year contract with an option for another year and I do hope to stay.”

Hull KR, of course, are rooted to the bottom of Super League after the opening four games but no-one there is taking any notice of the early leaderboard.

They defeated Wigan Warriors in their last home game and came so close to a second win when losing 32-24 at Warrington last Sunday.

On that game, Boudbeza recalled: “We started well but made some mistakes and gave away penalties which meant we gave them too much ball at the beginning of the game.

“We held them out for about six sets without conceding a try and it was because of the tiring from that that we then conceded some tries.

“But we created plenty, scored plenty and there was some very good parts to our game so it was very encouraging for the next few matches.”

Catalans, meanwhile, were left fuming when they conceded a controversial 79th-minute penalty at home to Salford Red Devils a week ago to finish 40-40, the highest-scoring draw in Super League history.

Full-back Morgan Escare was penalised in front of his own posts for getting up and carrying on running after being tackled.

Catalans believed the latest ruling in that instance states the player simply goes back to the original position and plays the ball but referee Phil Bentham said otherwise, a stance supported by match officials chief Jon Sharp.

Boudbeza also agrees, saying: “I think it was a penalty because sometimes when you do that, the ref says stop, play the tackle.

“But he ran too far. It’s difficult to judge. I’m not a ref but I think it was his (Escare’s) mistake yet sometimes it’s penalised and sometimes it’s not.

“It’s up to the ref to decide. Catalans have a good team, though. They did last year as well but this time with (Willie) Tonga, (Todd) Carney and (Remi) Casty they are better again.

“It will be tough but if we do the same as at Warrington with fewer mistakes we can win.”

Strangely, considering the club’s well-documented problems on their travels, Catalans have an excellent record in east Hull.

The French team have won each of their last five games at KC Lightstreams Stadium, not losing there since June 2010.

They have lost Australian stand-off Todd Carney for around four weeks due to broken ribs suffered last week.

Eloi Pelissier returns from suspension, though, to replace him in the only alteration to their 19-man squad.

They should also have ex-Sydney Roosters prop Remi Casty and France half-back Thomas Bosc returning after they failed fitness tests before the draw with Salford.

That duo will bring some real experience to the visitors as they seek to maintain that impressive run.

Meanwhile, in the only change to Huddersfield’s 19-man squad that visited Warrington, Lunt comes straight in for Keal Carlile, his former Giants team-mate and fellow hooker whose position looks most under threat following this week’s piece of transfer business.

He didn’t feature in the matchday squad at Halliwell Jones Stadium or in the win over Wigan with Graeme Horne, the ex-Hull FC back-row, showing promise as a makeshift hooker off the bench when replacing Boudebza in both.