Catalans Dragons prepare for Challenge Cup semi-final with St Helens

Catalan Dragons
Catalan Dragons

David Mead says the Catalans Dragons will carry the hopes and expectations of a nation when they take on St Helens in Sunday's Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final at Bolton.

Fans of the French Super League club still have fond memories of the Dragons' solitary appearance at Wembley in 2007, despite a comprehensive defeat that day by a Saints side in the middle of a hat-trick of Challenge Cup final triumphs.

The unique nature of the Rugby Football League's famous knockout competition was a novel experience for Mead, a Papua New Guinea international who is in his first season in Super League, but he has certainly been made aware of its significance.

"It's different and exciting," said Mead, who played in the NRL for Gold Coast Titans and Brisbane.

"I never fully understood how excited the people over here get. Even in France, they talk about it on the street, wishing you all the best even when the game was a few weeks away.

"They're pretty excited about it. It's been a while since the Dragons made it to Wembley."

David Mead joins Catalans Dragons
David Mead

Current Catalans captain Remi Casty is the only survivor from the side hammered 30-8 by St Helens 11 years ago and Mead is acutely aware of the challenge posed by the class of 2018, who have lost only two matches all year.

But the Kumuls captain says they will take heart from their late-season rally which enabled them to secure their Super League status with relative comfort.

Mead says it took the Catalans nearly half a season to overcome the disruption caused by the 2017 World Cup and he also points to the signing of goalkicking half-back Josh Drinkwater as a catalyst for their turnaround in fortunes.

"We got off to a pretty slow start," Mead said. "We had a lot of guys at the World Cup so we didn't have much time to prepare. It probably sounds like an excuse but that's the reality of it.

"We started to click at the back end of the year and Drinky arriving gave us a bit of direction.

"We've been playing tough all year, we just didn't have any direction until Drinky got in and now we're getting the rewards."

St Helens full-back Ben Barba has also had his eyes opened by the 121-year-old tournament and only got a sense of the occasion when he watched fellow Australian Albert Kelly play at Wembley.

"I didn't really know too much about the Cup at first," Barba said. "I knew about Super League but I didn't realise how big it (the Cup) was until I got older and I watched Albert Kelly play in one.

"Having been over here now and seeing how much joy the players get out of winning one, it is something to look forward to.

"The club hasn't won one for 10 years so let's hope we can get to a final and have a shot to win one. It would mean a lot to the people but we've got to look forward to Bolton first before we can start thinking about Wembley."

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