Mike McMeeken warns St Helens to expect a better version of Catalans Dragons in cup blockbuster

MIKE McMeeken has warned St Helens they will be facing the full fire of the Dragons in the south of France.

But Catalans’ home supporters are still remarkably chilled out whenever they meet one of their stars.

Last year’s Super League Grand Finalists face off again in the tie of the Challenge Cup quarter finals, a repeat of the opening match of the league season.

Then Steve McNamara’s men saw Gil Dudson sin binned after the very first tackle and Dylan Napa later sent off on his debut in the 28-8 defeat.

But back rower McMeeken believes it will be a different story two months later.

He said: “We’re a better side now than we were then. We were very hit and miss in that game.

“We leaked some soft tries, especially towards the back end of that game. We were lost in our attack too.

“But we’ve started to come good, even though we’re not firing on all cylinders yet. We’ve still got a bit of improvement in us.

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“In some games, we’ve fired very well whereas in others we’ve not looked ourselves. However, we should have our first choice spine back in place.

“We’ve worked on a few things and feel we can get it right. We know we’ve got to be close to being 10 out of 10 against a class team like Saints.”

As well as being live on the BBC, today’s clash is live on free-to-air TV in France, another sign the Dragons are growing after lifting the cup in 2018 and going so close in Super League last year.

The increased focus on them, though, does not mean players are constantly hassled for autographs and selfies.

McMeeken, 27, added: “Having it on free-to-air over in France shows how popular the game is over here.

“People want to watch it. It’s a big occasion, an exciting game to be a part of.

“It would be difficult for me to notice any increased focus as I don’t speak French very well but last year’s Super League semi-final saw a massive turnout, showing how people will get behind us.

“But people don’t really bother the players day-to-say, it’s a lot more chilled out. Perpignan’s a big city, whereas I’ve been in towns before where rugby league is their heart.

“Here, you have USAP rugby union and even Canet football team. They recognise us and you sometimes get asked for a photo but I’ve not had it too much.”

Catalans playing in Perpignan will at least mean no travel disruption for them after strong winds prevented them from flying to Huddersfield from their home city.

That meant driving to Toulouse, flying to Doncaster, a delayed kick off and a late return home, or rather an early one.

McMeeken told SunSport: “It was pretty eventful. We sat off about 12.30pm and I didn’t get home until 7am the next day!

“From what I gathered, there was no problem until they got to the area. He tried landing several times but couldn’t, so he headed to Toulouse.

“That wasn’t the reason why we lost, we were ill-disciplined in certain areas and made a couple of errors.”

Huddersfield chief Ian Watson said: “If they run the risk of travelling on the day they run the risk of missing the game and that’s something they need to look at.

“Once they got here, they were given longer than they probably should have been allowed.”

But boss McNamara hit back, saying: “There’s been a bit of criticism in the last week or so, I’m not sure why.

“To hear comments about us taking too long once we got to the ground, I know it was April 1 but it was certainly no April Fool’s joke.”

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