This weekend Dewsbury Rams will be facing French side Toulouse in a crunch game in the Betfred Championship.

The Rams are on a good run of form to date, winning three out of their first four championship fixtures, the only blot on the copy book is the defeat against London.

Neil Kelly’s side will be going into Sunday’s fixture with a lot of confidence, and will be fit and ready to go. The Rams couldn’t play last Sunday against Barrow in Cumbria, due to the bad weather conditions. However Toulouse were able to fufill their fixture against the Rochdale Hornets, a game they won 54-6.

Here’s a preview in readiness for the game.

History

France has a rich Rugby League history and the city of Toulouse has always played an integral role in this. With the City hosting the first ever Lord Derby Cup final in 1935 and teams from Toulouse participating in the French Rugby League from its second season onwards, Toulouse have always been well regarded in the Rugby League world.

Since then the club has gone through various changes and periods of strength and instability, with a ban on playing the sport in the Second World War, to wining six French Championships.

Gallia de Toulouse were Toulouse’s first Rugby League establishment, starting the 1935 season but lasting only two matches before dropping down to the amateur levesl of the sport. Olympique were formed two years later by Jean Galia, the father of French Rugby League and also a player of both codes of Rugby and a keen Boxer, and played their first league match on 24 October 1937. Galia’s new club would lose 14-44 at home against RC Albi at the Arnaune Stadium but the club would go onto finish in a respectable 8th place in their debut season.

As Germany took control of France in 1940, the country was divided into two, Occupied France in the North and Vichy France in the South. Toulouse fell into the latter and rather astonishingly, Rugby League was outlawed by the Vichy government. Phillippe Petain, the Vichy leader, saw Rugby League as being “too socialist, too British, too closely associated with Charles De Gaulle and a corrupter of the French Youth.”  These ludicrous claims were all merely a facade for a darker plot enacted by the Vichy government to strip the French Rugby League Federation of all its assets, Two million French Francs, with no return.

On to the 1960s and Toulouse finished runner-up in the league in 1963-64, and then went on to lift their first league title in the 1964-65 season, trouncing US Villeneuve 47-15 in their second grand final appearance. The club appeared in four cup finals across the decade, but lost them all. Eight years after their initial crown, Toulouse added the first of two additional league titles, in 1972-73 they defeated Marseille XIII 18-0 and in 1974-75, ten years after their first title, AS Saint Esteve fell 10-9 to Toulouse to allow them to pick up their third title in 10 years.

1995 saw the club change their name to Toulouse Spacers, one of the sport’s more peculiar franchise names, this was due to the aerospace company based in the city, keeping this name until 2002. The Spacers would end their three decade wait for silverware when they took the championship title for the fourth time in 2000 with victory over the same opponents they faced in 1975, Saint Esteve, 20-18 and the club would go on to reach consecutive finals, losing out 20-32 against Villeneuve Leopards in 2001.

The club reverted to Toulouse Olympique in 2003, and then went on to reach two additional league championship finals but lost both. In 2004/05 they were convincingly beaten by Catalans’ other Rugby League side 16-66 and the following season they lost again, this time going down 18-21 to Pia XIII.

2009 would finally see Toulouse join the European leagues, joining the RFL Championship and going on to have a relatively successful season, winning 5 on the bounce and 9 in total throughout the season. Their first stay in our leagues would not last long though; Olympique returned to the French league in 2012 and would go on to win titles in 2013 and 2014. In search of a new challenge, Toulouse would return to the RFL in 2016 and they look set to stay, Championship 1 promotion followed in the same year and more success followed the year after, with the club adding a Championship Shield to their extensive and ever-expanding trophy cabinet.

The Gaffer

Sylvain Houles is a name to remember for die-hard Rams fans with the Frenchman spending a year at the club back in 2003. Houles would make a mere 6 appearances for us in the centre but went on to have a distinguished career with Toulouse, also earning two international caps with France.

One to Watch

With 7 tries to his name in 5 games, William Barthau has been influential in Toulouse’s recent level of form that has seen them top the Championship going into today’s game. Another ex-Dewsbury player back in 2011, Barthau has 19 Super League appearances and 6 tries under his belt for Catalans in a career that has seen him feature regularly for his nation. He is the man who makes his side tick and Dewsbury will have to be guarded to keep him quiet during today’s game.

Form

Toulouse like the Rams have only lost once so far this season, they currently sit at the top of the Betfred Championship. Their only defeat so far this season came in game week two and at the hands of Featherstone Rovers where they lost 18-36 away from home.

The Rams meanwhile have had a terrific start to the season, and have only lost once this season, that coming in Dewsbury’s second game against London Broncos. The Rams were defeated 12-0 at the Tetley’s Stadium. Dewsbury are currently placed fifth in the league table and currently have the lowest points conceded with only 36.

Read a more more about Sunday’s opponents by purchasing a club programme from around the ground for only £2.50.

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