Rowell switches Catt to stand-off

Rugby Union
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After just one outing at stand-off, against South Africa last year, Mike Catt has been named in that position for Jack Rowell's next England training session on Wednesday.

In the previous session last week, Catt was named as one of three full- backs but finished the session at stand-off in a practice match. His naming in yesterday's 46-man squad is the first serious pointer to what Rowell will be looking for when he names his side to play Italy on 23 November at Twickenham.

Phil de Glanville, Catt's captain at Bath, certainly backs the selection. De Glanville, who will have to sit out the session because of injury, said yesterday: "Stand-off has to be his best position. This season he's got better and better for Bath and has been consistently outstanding for us. The new laws in particular helped his game."

For his part Catt said: "It's logical to pick me at stand-off because I've been playing there for Bath all season. But clearly it sets England a problem as far as place-kicking goes."

The problem is that neither Catt nor Rowell's possible choice at full- back, Tim Stimpson, is a recognised place-kicker so the burden of responsibility could rest on Will Carling, who has been kicking regularly for Harlequins this season.

Once again Rowell has been hit by injuries including Jeremy Guscott, who is out of Bath's Heineken Cup match tomorrow at Pontypridd because of a thigh problem.

Rowell's choice of England captain has had to be further delayed because of the continuing inability of the Rugby Football Union and the clubs to sort out their differences. Talks broke down again earlier this week but will resume next Tuesday.

One insider said yesterday it would probably be better for the English Professional Rugby Union Clubs to break away completely from Twickenham and return at a later date under a different agenda.

Undaunted, First Division Rugby, the commercial off-shoot of Epruc that deals specifically with the marketing and money-raising for the 12 First Division clubs, was launched yesterday to a fanfare of piped rock music and a parade of players. They announced a six-figure deal with Gilbert to supply rugby balls and hope to get more big companies on board as they strive to find enough cash to fund the professional game at the top level.

Last night one of their members, Bristol, ran into a spot of local difficulty. They were ordered to stage their European Conference game against the French side Narbonne at 7.30pm tomorrow. Bristol want to play the match on Sunday because Bristol Rovers, with whom they share their Memorial Ground, play against Blackpool in a football match tomorrow.

Notwithstanding the mitigating circumstances, they will have less than three hours in which to convert the pitch for the 15-aside game.

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