Catt in the cold and the mud

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STEVE BALE

Mike Catt has been Bath's outside-half all season, now all of a sudden wants to play exclusively at full-back in order to enhance himself internationally, and nearly ended up playing in the centre in this afternoon's Pilkington Cup fifth- round tie at Wakefield.

Eventually all was well when Jeremy Guscott, who hurt a shoulder in last Saturday's England-Wales encounter, was passed fit, leaving Catt to mudlark at the Rec as full-back for the second XV. A thaw of sorts having set in in Yorkshire, Wakefield expect to proceed against the holders, though it will be muddy at College Grove too.

The seven ties postponed a fortnight ago are due to take place today, though all will be subject to morning inspections. Newcastle v Harlequins qualifies as the glamour tie of the round, this status having been only marginally reduced by Will Carling's absence because of the knee injury which caused his premature departure from the Wales game.

In his stead Will Greenwood of England A, son of a former England coach, is the only change from the Harlequin side who would have played on 27 January. That postponement has had the useful effect for Newcastle of enabling them to introduce those of their recent signings who have completed their 120-day qualification.

Rob Andrew, player-manager and television pundit, was already qualified and the delay means he can be joined by the Ireland prop Nick Popplewell and the Scotland flanker Peter Walton as well as Phil Belgian, an England Colt from Gateshead formerly with Bath.

But for injury, Dean Ryan and Graham Childs would have joined them, and if there were another postponement Tony Underwood and John Dixon would be eligible next Saturday and the Scottish pair Gary Armstrong and Doddie Weir, as far as the Rugby Football Union is concerned, a week after that.

Quins' primary objective will be to keep tabs on Andrew, who even at 32 - 33 next Sunday - appears to remain the one English outside-half capable of consistent performance at international level. "He is still the best in England by a very long street," Dick Best, Quins' director of rugby, said yesterday.

Elsewhere prospects are promising. Leicester's pitch is protected by the Welford Road covers, the snow on the terracing which caused the Saracens tie to be called off last time no longer being a problem. At West Hartlepool, Leeds, Nottingham and Bedford they also expect to play.

Sarries, incidentally, are greatly aggrieved that Robert Howley, the new Wales scrum-half who registered with them during the autumn, has instead accepted an offer which binds him to the Welsh Rugby Union and are already considering whom to approach as an alternative half-back partner for Michael Lynagh.

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