Rugby Union: Sharp Catt gets the cream

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The Independent Online
England Under-21 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31

French Armed Forces Under-21. . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

DECISIONS, decisions - Mike Catt is a South African with a British passport who decided to play for England Under-21s, even though he aspires to be a Springbok, and then scored 21 points in the Twickenham curtain-raiser, writes Steve Bale.

If this meant he had dedicated his future to the land of his mother's birth, fine. But the tightening-up in the qualification regulations agreed by the International Board 10 days ago extends only as far as second-team level, leaving under-21s still free to pick and choose. More decisions.

Catt, who has played half-a-dozen times for Eastern Province, has spent most of the season a back-up at Bath for the Lions outside-half Stuart Barnes, though it was at centre that he faced the French. After a couple of early misses he landed every kick he took and finally ran a penalty to score a try when everyone expected him to try for goal.

Nice to know that English players, even if they are South African, can take a quick decision, though this conclusive win had more to do with the sheer physical presence the gigantic home pack were able to impose on the game. To take the individual example of Lawrence Dallaglio: he is a strapping No 8 (and one of England's world sevens heroes) who wants to be an open-side flanker, and in his preferred role he did rather well.

As all France's young men must do national service, this was really a full under-21 selection, and it even included Fabien Galthie, the senior France scrum-half only 14 months ago. No surprise, then, that they had rather a lot of the game territorially.

But, truly a la francaise, they were hopelessly ill-disciplined, were as upset by the refereeing of John Bacigalupo as their B-team counterparts had been against England in January and, probably in consequence, made too many elementary mistakes - usually when it was rather easier to score than not to.

England, on the other hand, exerted a simple economy in scoring; when they could, they did. Jon Sleightholme's touchline acceleration created the first try for the No 8 Richard Hill, Catt's break did the same for full-back Tim Stimpson, and by the time Catt delivered his injury-time coup de grace France were already well beaten.

England: Tries Hill, Stimpson, Catt; Conversions Catt 2; Penalties Catt 4. France: Drop goal S Bertrank.

ENGLAND UNDER-21: T Stimpson; J Sleightholme, D Edwards (Wakefield), M Catt (Bath), D O'Leary (Saracens); A Handley (Waterloo), M Olsen (Llandovery); D Molloy (Wasps), M Regan (Bristol), D Crompton (Bath), R Bramley (Wakefield, capt), S Shaw (Bristol), A Diprose (Saracens), R Hill (Salisbury), L Dallaglio (Wasps).

FRENCH ARMED FORCES UNDER-21: L Meric (Dax); R Philippe (Montchanin), O Pouligny (Valence d'Agen), G Duclos (Brive), F Bertrank (Monteferrand); S Bertrank (Ussel, capt), F Galthie (Colomiers); L Toussaint (Castres), E Bachoffer (Chalon-sur-Saone), D Laperne (Dax), T Bocquenet (Nimes), F Jolmes (Paris University), C Plauche (Montpellier), P Boher (Perpignan), A Chazalet (Valence). Replacement: S Berthot (Montferrand) for Duclos, 26; B Lascurettes (Mont- de-Marsan) for Laperne, 65; L Jacq (Brive) for S Bertrank, 65.

Referee: J Bacigalupo (Scotland).

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