How Catalans are shaping rugby league's future with help from Wigan & Barcelona

Camp Nou in Barcelona
Catalans Dragons are heading for Barcelona, one of the spiritual homes of Catalan culture

Catalans Dragons and Wigan will be making history and shaping the future of their sport in both France and England when they stride out at Barcelona's Nou Camp, says one French rugby league expert.

A crowd of at least 30,000 is expected in the iconic arena for Saturday's game, which would be a record for a regular-season match between two Super League sides.

But, more importantly, it could be the start of an exciting new chapter for the sport, according to French rugby league commentator Rodolphe Pires.

"The Dragons and Wigan are writing their own history, but they are also writing history for Super League. This should be the biggest attendance for Super League in the best sporting arena in the world." says Pires, who will be commentating on the game for French television.

"And we must learn from this. We don't have to hide ourselves. We have a great sport and we need to be on the big stages."

This will not be the first Super League game to be played in the Spanish city - Catalans hosted Warrington at the Olympic Stadium in 2009 when a crowd of 18,000 watched the Wolves win 24-12.

But the crowd at the Nou Camp is expected to beat the previous regular-season record of 25,004 who watched the Wigan-St Helens derby at the DW Stadium in 2005.

The idea of staging a game at the home of Barcelona FC came on the back of Catalans winning the Challenge Cup last year.

They paraded the trophy at the Nou Camp during half-time of a Catalan derby against Girona, and Barcelona invited the Dragons to stage a match at their home. The Wigan fixture was chosen.

"The relationship that the Dragons have built with Barcelona, this is friendship, it is not fake," said Pires.

"It is based on family, on the history of Catalan people crossing the border and going up north to France and escaping the chains of the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. There are a lot of things between these two clubs, more than you can imagine.

"I think the Dragons will look to play in Barcelona more regularly, maybe once a season in future."

Catalan flags at the Camp Nou during a Barcelona game
Going back to General Franco's dictatorship of Spain, Barcelona's Nou Camp stadium was one of the few places where Catalan people could speak their language, fly their flag and sing their songs

A hint for French domestic rugby league

The French Rugby League has agreed to make this a clear weekend for their clubs, to help boost the crowd at the Nou Camp. Some 5,000 Wigan fans are also making the trip, and Barcelona FC have been marketing the match on their social media platforms.

While Super League is hoping for a bounce in its profile as a result of this history-making match, Pires hopes that the French game can also get a boost from the ambitious choice of venue.

"I think they (the French Rugby League) should learn from this," says Pires. "People in France and England are talking about this game, they are taking notice.

"I am one of those that think it would be of benefit for the game in France to play in big stadiums in Paris again. Maybe not the Stade de France, but our Championship final could be played in Paris in one of the 30,000 or 40,000 capacity stadiums.

"That would also have people talking about our game."

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