CATALANS Dragons have completed the signing of Australia Test player Greg Bird and plan to give him his engage Super League debut against Castleford at the Gilbert Brutus Stadium on Saturday.
The 25-year-old, whose move to Bradford fell through when he was denied a visa by the British High Commission, was unveiled at a packed press conference in Perpignan.
He has signed a contract until the end of the season as a direct replacement for France international Sebastien Raguin, who has been sidelined until 2010 with a knee injury.
The French club have had no difficulty obtaining a visa for the ex-Cronulla Sharks player and the Rugby Football League have agreed to accept the registration.
“We started the process last week and were lucky enough to get the visa through yesterday morning,” said general manager Christophe Levy.
Bird was one of four high-profile overseas players to fall foul of a tightening of visa regulations in England.
That obviously included the Giants’ bid to bring over Australian superstar Todd Carney from Canberra
The Catalans have taken advantage of a more lenient attitude by the French authorities, who look far more favourably on requests from their sports organisations, and are confident the player will have no difficulty crossing the channel for away games.
Although the UK Borders Agency have no objection to Bird playing in France, they say it will be up to immigration officers at UK airports to decide whether he is allowed entry into this country.
The Catalans see Bird as a direct replacement for centre or second rower Sebastien Raguin, who has been ruled out for the season with a knee injury.