Leuluai back in the swim as Harlequins test the water

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The Independent Online

For new boys Harlequins and Catalan Dragons it is the moment of truth in the Super League today.

Harlequins RL are what used to be the London Broncos, with a new name, a new home, new colours and a new set of aspirations. They could not have a much sterner examination of their credentials than the visit of St Helens.

The bookies' favourites to win the title this year will have their three new signings - Francis Meli, Leon Pryce and Jason Cayless - all making their competitive debuts, although there is a doubt about the fitness of their key player, Paul Sculthorpe.

Quins have a side that already looks stronger than the one who made the play-offs last season for the return of Thomas Leuluai. Much will depend, though, on a new prop combination of Karl Temata and Daniel Heckenberg.

Given Saints' travelling support and the publicity which the link-up with one of rugby's most famous names has brought, Harlequins are hoping for 7,500 at the Stoop this afternoon.

That would be more than 2,000 up on the equivalent fixture last season and some indication that the club's change of direction could capture the capital's imagination rather more firmly than it has in the past.

Crowd numbers will also be studied intently at Perpignan, where the Dragons will not need reminding that, almost exactly 10 years ago, the first season of Super League was launched in front of a 17,000 crowd for Paris St-Germain's inaugural home game against the Sheffield Eagles.

The Dragons would be happy with half that this evening against Wigan. The true test will be whether the club can sustain their momentum through some demanding early fixtures; their first three home games are against Wigan, Bradford and Leeds.

Wigan are taking plenty of support to Perpignan and, even without Kris Radlinski, Bryan Fletcher and Gareth Hock, look stronger than the side which missed the play-offs last year.

One man never makes a team, but the Catalans will rely heavily on the sheer quality of Stacey Jones, who showed in New Zealand's victorious Tri-Nations team that he is still one of the best two or three players in the world. With no head coach in place - a ridiculous situation after almost two months in which to make an appointment - Jones' leadership will be even more vital.

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