Catalans Dragons have been given the go-ahead to start preseason training but they will do so without Israel Folau and new signing Dean Whare.
The Dragons players have been training on their own due to tight coronavirus restrictions in France but have received the green light to come together at the Gilbert Brutus Stadium from Monday.
That will give Catalans head coach Steve McNamara just under four weeks to prepare his team for their opening Super League game against Hull KR at Headingley on March 27, but he is confident they will be ready.
“It will be great to get the squad back together,” McNamara said. “The players have been extremely disciplined in their individual training whilst being understanding of the club’s situation.
“We will maximise the limited time we have, combining our opposed training sessions along with two trial games to ensure we are ready for round one.”
Whare, signed from Penrith Panthers as a replacement for the departed David Mead, is still awaiting his visa but Catalans football manager Alex Chan is confident the New Zealand Test centre will be available for the opening league game.
“We’re trying really hard to get him over as fast as we can,” Chan said. “Obviously with the current environment it’s hard to get someone across, we’ve got a lot of red tape that we are trying to sift through.
“Hopefully we’re in the final stages of getting his visa sorted out and my initial hope is that he gets on a plane this week.”
The future of Folau remains unclear as he remains with his family in Australia, taking care of his seriously-ill mother-in-law.
St George Illawarra dropped their initial interest in signing the dual-code international and Chan says the Catalans have not given up hope of having him back in 2021.
“It’s an ongoing saga,” Chan admitted. “We’ve given him the time he needs. The priority is the welfare of him and his family. They’re going through some really testing and trying times with his mother-in-law’s health.
“We’ve told Izzy to take as long as he needs and we’re only a call away if they need anything we can help with. We’re still forever hopeful that everything will get better and we’ll be able to get him back in camp.”