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Monday, 7 February, 2000, 11:59 GMT
Catt takes centre stage

Catt gets the cream: Bath star bounces back

BBC presenter and rugby afficiando John Inverdale watches England destroy Ireland in the Six Nations at Twickenham.

At a pre-Six Nations lunch last Friday, Phil de Glanville, England's injured former captain, took part in a question and answer session.

Six Nations Championship
The most commonly asked point from the floor? How many lives does a Catt really deserve.

De Glanville was blunt and to the point. His Bath team-mate Mike Catt is a great player and not fully appreicated.

Well now he is. Not just as an attacking force, but as a rock in defence as well.

Mike Tindall: Rookie looked like a veteran
Before the match against Ireland, the fragility of the England midfield was the main talking point.

But gone was the brittleness and in its place the kind of free-flowing, "interactive" - as Jack Rowell used to say - running rugby that England are not readily associated with.

How on earth could anyone doubt that Jonny Wilkinson is the best number 10 around?

How did both Mike Tindall and Ben Cohen appear as though they were winning their 50th, and not their first, caps?

Neil Back: As reliable as ever in the back row
Matt Perry, small of stock but huge of talent and commitment, plus the all-round skills of Matt Dawson, made the England back line a joy to behold.

Of course Lawrence Dallaglio and Neil Back were tremendous and without the ball backs are but passengers.

But it was the three-quarters who lit up the day and made the churlish and petty decision by the spoil-sports to close the bars after the game seem even more spiteful, when for once there was something to celebrate.

Ben Cohen bagged two tries on his debut
Ireland have big problems, Scotland's are mountainous, Italy's substantial and Wales are still in a state of shock.

Which just leaves the French, so masterful in Cardiff and now eyeing the visit to England to Paris in two weeks as "le crunch".

These exciting new backs in the red rose ranks on one side - Ntamack, Dominici, Castaignede and the rest on the other.

One swallow does not a summer make - but suddenly all the doom merchants who predicted a sterile and dull England are looking at some potentially sparkling young stars who will relish the majesty of the Stade de France.

It could be an absolute classic.

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See also:
07 Feb 00 |  Six Nations
England off to record start
31 Jan 00 |  Six Nations
John Inverdale: It's England's to lose
31 Jan 00 |  Rugby Union
Woodward told to rest stars
31 Jan 00 |  Six Nations
Six Nations championship
31 Jan 00 |  Six Nations
England: Must try harder
31 Jan 00 |  Six Nations
England: player profiles
Links to other Six Nations stories are at the foot of the page.