Romain Navarrete is determined to work his way from the “back of the queue” and secure a prop spot.
Many expected the 23-year-old to seek a permanent move away from Wigan in the winter. He cut short his debut campaign to rejoin former club Catalans on loan last summer because the homesick prop was “visibly down”, according to rugby executive Kris Radlinski.
But Navarrete reported for pre-season training on January 2 and coach Shaun Wane enthused he had been “killing it in training”.
He impressed in the friendly victory at Leigh and the France international is confident he can settle in his second year.
“Last year, I wanted to get back to France,” he explained. “My sister had a baby and it was tough being far from my family.
“I missed home and I wanted to be there.
“But now I’m happy, I’m ready to work hard with Wigan and I’m looking forward to the future.” Navarrete played 10 matches for Wigan last season, all from the bench.
But by his own admission his form didn’t demonstrate just why he had caught Wane’s eye playing for the Dragons at the back end of 2016.
“I was okay, but I didn’t play at my level,” he admitted. “My last game in the Wigan jersey, I was homesick and on the field I wasn’t as good.”
He faces competition for front-row spots from Ben Flower, Tony Clubb, Taulima Tautai, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Ryan Sutton, Joe Bretherton and new recruit Gabe Hamlin.
Willie Isa and Joel Tomkins can also play in the middle, and Navarrete concedes he has his work cut out.
“I want to play as many games if I can and show what I can do,” he added. “I’m stronger, I know what I can do and I can be better than last year.
“There are plenty of props, last year was tough, this year will be tough. I am starting at zero, I’m at the back of the queue and when I get my turn I will take it.”
Wane confirmed fringe prop Joe Bretherton faces a spell on the sidelines after “displacing a bone” in his leg during a friendly win at London Skolars.