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17th May 2019, 14:38 | catalans

Elstone hopes Nou Camp clash starts new trend

Elstone hopes Nou Camp clash starts new trend

Saturdayโ€™s ground-breaking match at the Nou Camp could be the first of a series of Betfred Super League fixtures in big European cities, according to chief executive Robert Elstone.

The Catalans Dragons’ bold decision to take their home game against Wigan Warriors to Barcelona is set to pay off with a Super League record crowd, eclipsing the 25,004 that watched the Wigan-St Helens derby at the DW Stadium in 2005.

“The Catalans Dragons have worked incredibly hard on this for a number of weeks,” Elstone said.

“They’re really confident of breaking the all-time Super League record and, after 24 seasons and four or five thousand games, that’s some achievement, particularly in an alien city.

“It seems like the world of rugby league in France has got behind them.”

Elstone also believes the game in Barcelona could have huge significance for rugby league outside the English heartland.

“We’ve talked about expansion and reaching a new audience and taking the game out of its bubble and I think probably nothing in the game’s 24-year history has done this more than tomorrow’s game,” Elstone added.

“It’s created a lot of interest in the week beforehand and it will create a lot of interest in a couple of days afterwards but what we’ve got to do is bottle that and build on it.

“That’s the challenge. Partly why I was in Toulouse on Wednesday was to look at opportunities in south-west France for growth.

“We were chatting to the Catalans staff last night about where next year might be. I think they’ve been motivated and enthused by what they’re achieving here and are looking to kick on next year.

“They’re already talking about other major cities in this part of the world, there is talk of Marseille, Nice and Bordeaux. You want to pick a vibrant city with an interest in sport that’s got a great stadium that can showcase this.”

Wigan, the reigning champions, have won their last 10 meetings with Catalans, the Coral Challenge Cup holders, whose last victory against the Warriors was in May 2015.

“We are excited about the massive venue over there,” said Wigan coach Adrian Lam. “It’s looking like it’s going to be a record-breaking crowd.

“I know some of my friends are travelling over from Australia. With over 4,000 Wigan fans travelling over, we just want to perform for them.

“It’s a massive game for us because they are sitting joint third and we need to climb the ladder. It’s a must win for us.”

Elsewhere on Saturday, Hull FC and Wakefield Trinity will be aiming to atone for embarrassing defeats when they visit Warrington Wolves and London Broncos respectively on Saturday afternoon.

London began the season with a 42-24 win over Trinity in Ealing, while Hull lost 63-12 at home to the Wolves in March and suffered a 80-10 mauling on their last visit to the Halliwell Jones Stadium last August.