The Castleford coach, Daryl Powell, has revealed his side have devised a plan to see how Israel Folau copes under pressure on his return to rugby league after the controversial Australian moved a step closer to his Super League debut this weekend. Catalans say Folau will make his first appearance for the club on Saturday afternoon, after being named in their 21-man squad for the game against the Tigers in Perpignan.
The 30-year-old was deemed not ready to play for the club in last weekend’s game at Wakefield Trinity, which was subsequently postponed due to Storm Ciara. He had only arrived in the south of France days before that game. He has been included in their squad for the first time for the game against Castleford and Powell says they have done their homework on a player who has not played league for a decade. “We’ve got to try and make him rusty. He’s a big, athletic player and he’s similar to Sonny Bill Williams in that there’s a bit of an unknown there,” he said on Thursday. “We’ve watched a lot of footage of him and we’re aware of that right-foot step of his, which is really dominant.”
Folau could still technically miss out on Saturday, with four players from Catalans’ 21-man squad dropping out prior to kick-off. But with the Dragons short on outside backs due to injuries, and Folau likely to resume his rugby league career in the centres – where he made his name in the sport with Melbourne and Brisbane – it makes the prospect of him playing all-but guaranteed. Powell is expecting him to feature.
Dragons Catalans (@DragonsOfficiel)
🏉 21 MAN SQUAD
Steve McNamara a dévoilé le groupe pour la réception de @CTRLFC
💥 Israel Folau fera ses débuts samedi sous le maillot catalan
🇬🇧 https://t.co/DwNkhbUjvu#Dragons 🐉 pic.twitter.com/HEELd5Ygml
“I think he will play,” he said. “There’s a bit of an unknown there with him bur plans aren’t going to change too much; we think we know the way he’s going to play. We’re not specifically putting him under pressure, but we have looked at him and how him coming in will impact them. We’ve got some smart centres and it’ll be interesting to see what they throw up out on the edges. We’ve had a look at him and Catalans in their one game so far, and they haven’t got into a groove so it’s hard to work them out. He hasn’t played rugby league for ten years so we want to see if he’s still any good at it.”
Folau’s arrival at the Dragons continues to dominate the sport’s headlines two weeks on from the announcement he was returning to league. The Rugby Football League and Super League both admitted that despite overwhelming support for Folau’s registration to be rejected by many clubs, they were powerless to prevent him from signing with Catalans. Super League subsequently said last week that their clubs had agreed tighter measures to prevent controversial signings such as Folau joining the competition in the future if there is significant unrest.