Catt on the mat after outburst

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The Independent Online
Jack Rowell is growing impatient with various aspects of his England side, as he made clear when the team to meet South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday gathered in Roehampton yesterday, writes Steve Bale.

For one thing, there is the widely - one might say endlessly - touted dynamic style of rugby. This has the manager agitated with his players for not doing it, and with his various interlocutors for persistently asking about it.

Then there is Mike Catt, England's South African outside-half, who shot his mouth off on television the other day. Catt has now been suitably scolded by Rowell though, in actual fact, there are a fair number of non- Transvaalers who would agree with him that Francois Pienaar was only an "average'' player.

But since South Africa's triumphal World Cup under Pienaar's inspired leadership, very few will any longer say so. Pienaar, by the way, responded to the Catt call by describing his critic as "a very good player''.

"The last thing you do is stir up the opposition to play better," Rowell said. "Mike is a young man and a very exciting talent who will learn the hard way. On Saturday night he might be looking back and licking his wounds, metaphorically speaking."

As it happens, it is to Catt that the manager is primarily looking to generate a style which Rob Andrew, his predecessor, ultimately found impossible - whether for Rowell or for Rowell's own long-term predecessor, Geoff Cooke. Hence Rowell's pointed suggestion yesterday that England's critics examine what had gone on during the previous eight years.

Rowell's persistent frustration has been in the way his England teams leave their open minds behind on the training field. "I would like to think they would put in to practice the way they practise," he said.

Yesterday's session at the Bank of England ground was a case in point, focusing sharply on movement and continuity.

"We have practised to win with a more expansive style," he added. "Therefore, I would expect to see it on the field, but it's not an overnight thing. Even New Zealand failed to score a try against South Africa; people shouldn't forget that."

In any case, Rowell has ruled out as counter-productive the pedestrian but muscular rugby that produced many of England's victories during the successful Nineties - now that Andrew, Brian Moore and Dean Richards are gone. "I don't think we have the players to play in the traditional manner. So we have to change and selection has been done on that basis."

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