Whitehead set for Catalan bow

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5th July 2013

Elliott Whitehead has been taken under the wing of his former Bradford Bulls team-mate Leon Pryce as he sets up home in Perpignan, but he will be denied the chance to make his Catalan Dragons debut alongside his old mentor.

Pryce will sit out his first Super League match of the season when London Broncos visit the Stade Gilbert Brutus tomorrow as coach Laurent Frayssinous shakes up his side following last week's 60-16 mauling by Huddersfield Giants.

Frayssinous' decision to leave out Pryce and fellow regulars Steve Menzies, who yesterday confirmed he would retire at the end of the season, and Mickael Simon was also made with one eye on next Saturday's Challenge Cup quarter-final against Hull FC.

Whitehead, 23, will take the place of the 39-year-old Menzies, another former Bradford player, after completing his move from Odsal and accompanying his new team-mates on their flight back to Perpignan after last Friday's game.

The Dragons swooped for the second rower after he asked for a move, paying an undisclosed sum to the Bulls and handing the player a contract running to the end of 2015.

Bradford claimed Whitehead told coach Francis Cummins he wanted to play for a top-four club but the player insists he simply wanted to freshen up his career.

"I was a bit disappointed with the way it came out," he said. "When I talked to Franny, I never mentioned any clubs; I just wanted to get out of my comfort zone.

"I'd been at Bradford five years and I felt like my rugby wasn't going anywhere. I'm hoping this move will push me into contention for England."

Whitehead is now out of his comfort zone, struggling with the language in the south of France, but has been made to feel at home by the Pryce family.

"I knew it was going to be a big challenge for me but I'm enjoying it," he said.

"I'm living with Leon and his family until I get my own place and they're making me feel comfortable, making meals for me. All the family like it here.

"It's good to have a change. I'm struggling with the language but I'm learning bits every day and all the French lads are good to me.

"It might take me two years but I'm having lessons. It will make me more independent and hopefully a better person as well as a better player."

Whitehead will not be eligible for next week's cup tie, having played for Bradford in their fifth-round defeat at London, but will be out to make an impression against the Broncos tomorrow after being frozen out of the game for the last month.

"I feel I need to prove to my new team-mates I'm worthy of my spot in the team," he said.

"It would have made my job a bit easier had Leon been playing - he used to coach me at my amateur club West Bowling - but Thomas Bosc is also a quality player.

"It will be good just to play again; hopefully I will have a good game."

The Dragons will be expected to bounce back against the Broncos, who slumped to the foot of the table following last Saturday's 44-30 home defeat by Salford City Reds.

The Londoners have lost their last seven meetings with the Catalans going back to February 2011 but they will have Australian scrum-half Jamie Soward starting his first game for them and expect to give a debut to Wigan Warriors forward Rhodri Lloyd after he joined on a month's loan.

Broncos coach Tony Rea said: "Jamie Soward has had a full training week with us so we have a lot of work to do to get our combinations right and get ourselves into the ball game.

"There are some real challenges going to France against a team that plays well at home.

"They've had some results they've not been happy with but they are back at home and conditions are going to be hot and challenging."

Whitehead set for Catalan bow 2013.superleague.co.uk
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