Gil Dudson believes Catalans are as big a Super League club as Wigan
GIL Dudson believes Catalans Dragons are every bit as big and important to Super League as Wigan.
And having had his eyes opened at the Warriors, he is qualified to know.
The Welshman is getting recognised on the streets of Perpignan, just as he did in the Greater Manchester town when he played for the Warriors.
And he believes his new club is every bit as important in the South of France as the former employers he faces today are in rugby league's heartlands.
He said, while admitting he is getting on well with his French after switching from Salford: “Joining Wigan from Crusaders in 2012 opened my eyes.
“Before I went there, I was under the radar as we played in a football town in Wrexham but in fact, the first rugby shirt I ever owned was the old Wigan one with JJB on the front.
“That was the best move I made. I’d never been to Wigan before joining them and I couldn’t believe the hold the club has on the town.
“I was a bit naïve to it really. You can’t be under the radar in Wigan when you play for Wigan – but there are similarities between them and Catalans. Although I did meet my wife there.
“But it is definitely not standing out like a sore thumb by being a Brit abroad and wearing t-shirt and shorts in January when everyone’s in coats and scarves!
“Coming here has also opened my eyes. Catalonia is a big region and the club isn’t just about Perpignan but the whole area.
“It’s a bit different than when I was playing at Salford, which is a big football area. Here you see Catalans shirts all over the place and there’s a really big presence in all the villages around here.”
Dudson has already become an important part of Steve McNamara's pack as FIVE former Wigan players – also Sam and Joel Tomkins, Tom Davies and Michael McIlorum – form part of their Super League bid.
Having already beaten St Helens, ending the Warriors' perfect start will be a huge message to the competition.
But for all the known names, including ex-NRL stars like James Maloney and Dean Whare, it is the young French talent that has caught the eye.
Dudson, 30, added: “Their quality has definitely surprised me. There’s people like Julian Bousquet and Ben Garcia, who’ve done it for a while, but there are others too.
“There’s Mathieu Laguerre and Arthur Mourgue. Mathieu has come in and been absolutely outstanding. They and others are thriving.
“That win over Saints definitely gives us the confidence we can be up there. We didn’t even play great but that’s a promising sign when you can do that and still win.
“And 100 per cent, the belief we can do it against Wigan is there. We’ve spoken about that ourselves and we don’t feel we’ve got to where we can get to yet this year.
“You’ve got to be on your game for the whole 80 minutes against Wigan.”
Wigan aim to make it eight wins from eight as they fly in and out of Perpignan in a day, although chartering a flight means a later start than their normal 4.45am departure.
And after horrendous injury problems, winger Dom Manfredi is ready to make up for lost time, once he gets fully back to his best..
He said: “I feel like I'm still finding my feet. I feel pretty good but there’s a lot more to come.
“We've struggled on the injury front like other teams but we’ve gone alright, we’ve got the points and it’s down to us what we make of it.
“At this point of the year it’s all about getting the wins. We're not playing our best and I’m sure that’s to come.”
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