London Irish 24 Toulouse 26: Geraghty's gifted display has Catt purring over England future

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London Irish may not be going anywhere in the Heineken Cup, but their fly-half, Shane Geraghty, most certainly is going places.

Geraghty turned in a superb all-round show which had those in the know praising him unreservedly. Bob Casey, an Ireland lock and the Exiles' captain, said: "He's a special one. He could be the answer to England's fly-half prayers."

Mike Catt, Geraghty's fellow England squad member who plays alongside him for Irish, said: "I thought Shane played extremely well today. He controlled things and he and Newcastle's Toby Flood are both ready for the Six Nations."

Casey and Catt, who is nursing a shoulder injury but expects to be fit for next weekend's match at Llanelli, were adamant that England must manage such youngsters correctly.

"He's talented enough and confident enough to play in this season's Six Nations," Casey said. "I just hope he's handled in the right way, because he is a great talent and in the long term he is going to be a big player for England."

Catt said: "Experience is what England have been lacking in the backs. They have to get the balance right between talented youngsters and experienced players. They've brought in youngsters to play alongside chaps who have only a little more experience, therefore the newcomers are trying to learn from guys who are in the same boat as they are.

"At Irish, Shane has so many experienced guys around him that when you slot him in it works. The good thing about Shane is that he has stopped making stupid mistakes. Whereas last year he was trying to do all the offloads and the fancy stuff, he has cut that out this season and he is more consistent as a result. His distribution is brilliant, he can pass over defenders and it creates so much more out wide - that's why Delon Armitage and Topsy Ojo like playing outside myself and Shane.

"Brian Ashton wants players who will try things; Geraghty and Flood are like that, Gloucester's Ryan Lamb is like that, and I am like that. We want to try new things, and do them when the defence does not expect it. That is what Brian Ashton is all about."

It is also what Irish are all about. They caught Toulouse napping countless times, Geraghty opening the account with a sharply-taken try from close range. But too often mistakes let them down when tries appeared to be there for the taking.

Armitage, another great prospect, scored a hat-trick, but Toulouse managed to outscore the Exiles, with the wing Xavier Garbajosa twice touching down and the centre Benoît Baby and scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde ensuring maximum points to keep the French side's faint hopes of qualification alive.

London Irish: Tries Geraghty, Armitage 3; Conversions Everitt 2. Toulouse: Tries Garbajosa 2, Baby, Elissalde; Conversions Courrent, Elissalde 2.

London Irish: D Armitage; T Ojo, G Tiesi (B Everitt, 52), S Mapusua, D Shabbo (R Flutey, 21); S Geraghty, P Hodgson (R Rees, 73); T Lea'aetoa, D Coetzee (D Paice, 53), F Rautenbach (R Skuse, 53), N Kennedy, R Casey (capt; J Hudson, 64), K Roche (A McCullen, 53), O Magne, J-M Leguizamon.

Toulouse: G Thomas; X Garbajosa, M Kunavore, B Baby, M Médard (Y Huget, 78); J-F Dubois (J-B Elissalde, 41), V Courrent (M Mermoz, 75); D Human (S Perugini, 75), V Lacombe (W Servat, 41), O Hasan (S Perugini, 48-75), G Lamboley, T Brennan (R Millo-Chlusky, 58), J Bouilhou (capt), J Montauriol (Y Nyanga, 38), F Maka.

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).

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