Exiles 'handcuff Catt to the desk' to fight off interest from Bath

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The Independent Online

Bath are in something of a quandary on the coaching front, given that two members of their back-room staff have already agreed to move on at the end of the season - Michael Foley to his native Australia, Richard Graham to Saracens - and that a third, Brian Ashton, is expected to agree terms with England any day now.

Little wonder, then, that they should be interested in welcoming Mike Catt back to the Recreation Ground, where the South African-born midfielder earned his keep for more than a decade.

There are two obvious obstacles to any such move, despite the fact that Catt is keen on launching a coaching career and still has a family home in the city. To begin with, there is no guarantee that the bad feeling that clouded his departure from the Rec two seasons ago has entirely evaporated. Even more to the point, London Irish are pledging to move heaven and earth to hang on to his services.

"We're having to handcuff him to the desk," said Brian Smith, the London Irish director of rugby, who worked with Catt during a season spent as Bath's defence coach and is engaged in guiding the World Cup winner through the autumnal splendours of his active career. "He's a Bath boy, his family are based there and we know Bath would be interested in him, in the same way Leicester wanted to speak to him earlier this season. But if we can keep on winning, we might hang on to him. We're in the play-offs and in the European Challenge Cup final, so maybe it will happen."

Smith wants Catt to commit himself to another year on the field while learning the ropes as a technical coach. This would mirror the career path taken by Andy Robinson, the current England head coach, who combined the two roles during his latter years at Bath. This much seems certain: Catt will not be lost to English rugby any time soon.

Newcastle, meanwhile, are unlikely to renew terms with their international flanker, Colin Charvis. Having shed three Test players already - the England outside-half David Walder, the Italian prop Tino Paoletti and the Australian back-row forward Owen Finegan - they are now preparing to off-load the Welshman, who first surfaced at Kingston Park at the start of the 2004-05 campaign.

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