Rugby Union: Catt with wings looks odd

Tim Glover watches a back of all trades fail to master art of the wide boys
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The Independent Online
AS A candidate for the right wing, Mike Catt is in the Ross Perot class. True, the Bath utility player rounded off a classic England threequarter move to score a try but had he had another two yards to go to the line he would not have made it.

Although Catt was released on a clear overlap, he was caught from behind by his opposite number Denis Hickie, and only the England wing's momentum carried him over. Catt celebrated, as the hooker Richard Cockerill had done when he scored an improbable try, by kicking the ball high into the North Stand. It is a bad habit that should be discouraged.

Against France in Paris, England's sole defeat in the Five Nations' Championship, Catt played full-back and without any great distinction. He has also played fly-half and centre and, for all we know, has had a trial at making the tea.

Clive Woodward, the England coach, thinks the world of him but what was patently clear from yesterday is that while Catt may have nine lives, he does not belong in four positions, and wing is one of them.

It all inevitably ended in tears for Catt who will now have his third prolonged spell out of the game this season after straining a hamstring. "It was very strange not being involved either attacking or defending on every bit of possession," he said. "When I went down hurt my first thought was what our Bath coach Andy Robinson would say. I am unavailable for our matches over Easter as we try to catch up in the league."

It was an experiment that backfired but England were missing the talents of the injured David Rees. Perhaps England have allowed themselves to get carried away by the success of converting Austin Healey, the Leicester scrum-half, into an international left wing.

Healey did many fine things and it was noticeable that he has also become something of a motormouth. At one point he was telling Catt what to do and telling Matt Perry where to go. Healey also had an animated conversa tion with Jeremy Guscott after the centre had been tackled, not for the first time, while heading for the line.

England, as expected, surpassed last season's record aggregate of 141 points for the Five Nations but several factors prevented this from becoming the grand international that the Twickenham faithful had anticipated. One was the impressive Irish pack and another was the wind that swirled through the stadium, making kicking from the hand, in particular, a dubious option.

Eric Elwood was having a pretty wretched match until he clashed heads with his centre Mark McCall. Thereafter, the Ireland stand-off's game improved immeasurably and it was his sublime reverse pass that had the effect of parting the white sea for Hickie to sprint through the middle for his second try.

Both Catt and Will Greenwood were replaced because of injuries but before that the England midfield cleverly executed some smart moves that had been drawn on the blackboard. Perry was the first bene- ficiary and Catt's try was the result of Greenwood coming inside and his beautifully-timed pass meant that the Irish defence was spent.

Catt is considered to be quick but he is not a real flyer and, compared to, say, Austin Healey, he looked more like a Reliant Robin. As for Guscott, his Rolls-Royce engine appears to have been fine tuned like a Volkswagen Beetle, a suspicion highlighted by the fact that when he was in the clear late in the second half, he could not escape the clutches of the Ireland No 8 Victor Costello who successfully managed to make up an amount of ground which would have been unthinkable before the centre's long injury.

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