London Irish 30 Saracens 18: Catt's eyes on Test recall as Bracken retires

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The Independent Online

This match was as much a tale of two 34-year-olds, Mike Catt and Kyran Bracken, as it was about London Irish claiming their highest finish in the Premiership.

The Exiles still have two games, at least, to play - a Premiership semi-final play-off next weekend at Leicester, where Irish last lost an away match in all competitions at the end of November, followed by the European Challenge Cup final against Gloucester at The Twickenham Stoop the following Sunday. In contrast, this defeat meant an end to Saracens' season.

The contrast between what lies in wait for Catt and Bracken could not be more distinct. Catt, the Exiles' centre, is carrying on for another season but Bracken is retiring after a distinguished career.

According to Brian Smith, Irish's director of rugby, Catt is in good enough form to resurrect his England interests.

"They say 'Catty is fantastic, but...', and what they mean is, 'but he is 34'," Smith said. "Well, that doesn't matter. Catty has just put two 25-match seasons together back-to-back and who's to say he can't put in another.

"If Brian Ashton goes in there with Andy Robinson and they [England] play Brian Ashton's attack philosophy, there is one bloke on this planet who knows that philosophy better than anyone else, and that is Mike Catt.

"So it wouldn't surprise me if Andy Robinson went that way with the World Cup. There are a lot of ifs and buts, but forget about Catty's age. And based on all that, I don't see why he shouldn't go on tour this summer to Australia."

Smith would be disappointed if a clutch of his younger players did not make that trip. The hooker David Paice, an Australian with residential qualifications, is a candidate, and he should be accompanied by the Tottenham-born winger Topsy Ojo and pacy full-back Delon Armitage. The pair scored two tries apiece against Saracens.

For Bracken, who retired from Test rugby after the 2003 World Cup win, it was a time for reflection. "My first game, back in the amateur days, was against London Irish so it's funny the way fate can deal you these hands," he said.

His parting words to his clubmates focused on their future rather than his past. "I told them the reason teams finish in the top three is not just because they are better, it's because they work harder," he said. "And that's what Saracens have to do better."

London Irish: Tries Armitage 2, Ojo 2; Conversions Flutey 2; Penalties Flutey, Everitt. Saracens: Tries Harris, Castaignède; Conversion Jackson; Penalties Jackson 2.

London Irish: D Armitage; T Ojo, S Geraghty, D Fea'unati (G Tiesi, 65), S Tagicakibau; R Flutey (B Everitt, 40), B Willis (P Hodgson, 80); M Collins (N Hatley, 32), R Russell (D Paice, 54), R Skuse, R Casey (capt; K Roche, 61), N Kennedy, D Danaher, K Dawson, J Leguizamon (P Murphy, 21-28; 55).

Saracens: T Castaignède; D Scarbrough, K Sorrell, D Harris (A Powell, 50), T Vaikona (R Haughton, 68); G Jackson, K Bracken (M Rauluni, 53); K Yates (N Lloyd, 50), S Byrne (M Cairns, 53), C Visagie (B Broster, 75), S Raiwalui, T Ryder, K Chesney, B Russell (D Seymour, 65), H Vyvyan (capt).

Referee: S Davey (Sussex).