Catt eager to grasp his big England chance

Interim backs coach had plans to travel world... but then his country came calling

Mike Catt had tentative plans to spend the next year circumnavigating the rugby globe, picking up fresh coaching ideas from major union-playing nations before embarking on the next stage of his career. If he plays his cards right in his native South Africa next month, the World Cup-winning centre may spend the next four years travelling on the Twickenham budget.

"This is a massive opportunity," England's interim backs coach said yesterday in Leeds, where he was putting local schoolboys through their paces before turning his attention to players in the national squad, some of whom played like schoolboys – and behaved like them, too – at last year's global gathering in New Zealand, but have since grown up sufficiently to retrieve their professional sporting reputations from the gutter. "If I looked too deeply into the possibilities ahead of me, I'd probably be blinded by them. All I know is that chances like this don't come along often."

Catt has signed a short-term deal to join the head coach, Stuart Lancaster, and the forwards coach, Graham Rowntree, on the England back-room staff for the forthcoming three-Test series against the Springboks, which begins in Durban on 9 June. To all intents and purposes, he and Lancaster are still strangers to each other – the two men had barely met prior to the opening of job discussions late last month – but Catt is already convinced he can work productively alongside the new boss.

"I'll need to get to know Stuart a lot better," he acknowledged, "but he's a very decisive character and he has a clear vision of where he wants the England team to go. We saw in the Six Nations that he has been successful in creating the right culture. When you think that Clive Woodward took two or three years to move towards that, you have to say that Stuart, Graham and Andy Farrell did an amazing job in making so much progress in the space of a few weeks. I know from talking to Alex Corbisiero [the Test prop who worked with Catt at London Irish] that the players were buzzing under Stuart. We had that kind of feeling back in 2003, when we won the World Cup."

Had Farrell done what everyone expected him to do and committed himself to the England cause, Lancaster would not have thought of bringing Catt on board. Instead, Farrell opted to stay with Saracens – partly out of loyalty to the club that stuck by him through an injury-riddled playing career and then set him on a new career path as a coach; partly because he considered himself too underboiled as a tactician and strategist to throw all his eggs into the international basket. That decision opened the Catt-flap, so to speak.

There are certain intriguing similarities between the two men: both were midfielders – indeed, they operated alongside each other under Brian Ashton at the 2007 World Cup – and are young enough to communicate easily with the current players. Farrell's communication skills were a major contributory factor to England's excellent Six Nations run, and Catt believes he can talk the same language to similar effect.

"All the guys in the squad are hugely talented," he said. "If they weren't, they wouldn't be putting on an England shirt. It's a matter of getting the best out of them and I believe I have the empathy required. Whatever a player goes through, be it good or bad, I've been through it – probably twofold. I think it's very important for players to be able to open up to a coach who knows where they are coming from, and having just finished playing myself, that's a huge plus for me."

Catt decided back in February that he would end his productive association with London Irish at the end of the season – this weekend's Premiership finale with Gloucester will mark his departure – and it seemed likely at one stage that he would return to Bath, the club he joined on arriving in this country from Port Elizabeth a little over two decades ago. When that apparent opening suddenly closed, there was no immediate Plan B.

"Two weeks ago I was wondering what I might be doing next season," he admitted. "I wasn't too worried: I've never been one for planning things, for mapping things out. It never goes the way you want it to, so why bother? I just take it as it comes. But I knew I'd have to do something, so the idea of travelling and experiencing different environments cropped up. Then Andy made his decision and, suddenly, here we are. I've had a lot of opportunities in life, but this is one I really need to grasp."

Victory over the Boks would put Catt in a very strong position, just as the unexpected runners-up finish in the Six Nations put Lancaster ahead of the field in the race for the head coach's job. Can England win a series in the republic for the first time in their history? Catt, who knows as much as most about rugby in his homeland, is not ruling it out.

"It will be tough, obviously, but sport is a funny thing: look what's happened to me over the last fortnight," he commented. "I'm sure Stuart knows exactly what we need to do to win there and the players will know by the time they board that plane. After that, it will be down to the bounce of the ball."

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears