Rugby Union: Selectors backed over Catt

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Carel du Plessis, the Springbok coach, yesterday backed the decision of the Lions selectors to omit Mike Catt, the South African-born outside- half from the British Isles squad to tour the Republic in May and June.

Scotland's Gregor Townsend and England's Paul Grayson were picked instead of Catt. "He wasn't at the level one should expect from a Test player and I have to say I wasn't surprised at his omission," du Plessis said of Catt's absence.

"There were one or two new names in the squad but no major shocks. I thought we might see Jonathan Davies in there - he is an attacking fly- half, a playmaker - but in Gregor Townsend they have a player with the same sort of ability."

"It's a well-balanced squad. There's two good teams in there with the midweek team well matched with the likely Test side. But it will be interesting to see what combinations they put together.

"The pack is heavy and strong with good ball-winners and line-out men, while the back line has been beefed up defensively with some of the rugby league players who have returned to rugby union. I'm quite interested to see how they work out their fly-half, full-back and wing combinations though.

"If they have Gregor Townsend at fly-half, do they have Neil Jenkins at full-back? He is a reliable place-kicker but is he going to make it as the Test full-back?"

The Lions play three Tests against the Springboks as well as 10 matches against provincial sides. "There is seen to be a gap between the northern and southern hemisphere games but I have seen a change in the Five Nations this year," du Plessis said.

The Ireland wing Simon Geoghegan admitted yesterday that his rugby career is in the balance because of toe problems. Geoghegan, 28, withdrew from the Lions squad on Monday, having originally been selected to tour South Africa this summer, and was replaced by England's Tony Underwood.

"Now, I'll have to go back and speak to the surgeons. I will try something else, but if it doesn't work out then I will have to hang up my boots," he said. "At the moment, my main concern is try and get these feet right for the rest of my life."