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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 March 2007, 16:49 GMT
Guscott's England verdict
Jeremy Guscott
By Jeremy Guscott
Legendary England centre

The experiment with Andy Farrell has not worked as well as expected and it was time for Mike Catt to come back into the England side.

As it happened, Farrell's back injury made coach Brian Ashton's decision for him. But there's no doubt that Catt offers a bit more than the former Great Britain rugby league skipper right now.

What you get with Catt is a player who's not afraid to lose, which means he's not afraid to try something.

Mike Catt
Catt has made a huge impact at London Irish
You only have to look at the way London Irish have improved in the last couple of seasons to see the impact Catty can have.

Irish have played with a smile on their faces. Their style might be seen as high risk by some, but to them it's natural and normal.

Don't expect England to be too high risk against France on Sunday, but if the opportunity is there for them to run the ball they will do it.

There are very few players in world rugby who know more about the role of inside centre than Catt.

He's never been ultra quick, but he's always been able to spot a gap and run the line accordingly. He also has an excellent kicking game which can take some of the onus off Toby Flood at fly-half.

There have been a few question marks about Catt's defence over the last couple of seasons, but I wouldn't be too worried about that area of his game.

I also don't think his age is an issue. Yes, he's 35, but he's also a very fit guy.

The injury to Jonny Wilkinson and inclusion of Flood at 10 makes Catt's selection even more necessary. Having such an experienced head at 12 will help the young Newcastle fly-half no end.

I doubt Martin Corry will be particularly happy at being moved to the second row

Some people had tipped Shane Geraghty for the number 10 shirt in the absence of Wilkinson, as he played so well for Irish against Newcastle at the weekend and plays alongside Catt week in, week out.

But Flood has been around the England scene a little longer than Geraghty and the rest of the guys know his game well now.

I don't think Flood needs to do anything too exciting against France and should take a leaf out of David Skrela's book.

Skrela might have only played four or five games for France, but he's been solid and composed and already looks an experienced campaigner.

Flood can leave all the long, flailing passes to Catty.

Elsewhere, the backline isn't too experimental.

Josh Lewsey's played at full-back for England many times before, David Strettle came in against Ireland and did well, Mike Tindall and Jason Robinson are the senior pros, and Harry Ellis has done pretty well this season.

However, we all know that the backs can only shine if the boys up front do their jobs.

I can't see much wrong with Ashton's selections in the pack. Tim Payne and Tom Palmer deserve their places because of their form for Wasps.

I doubt Martin Corry will be particularly happy at being moved to the second row, but it won't take him long to get used to it and get stuck in.

He will effectively act as another back-rower anyway.

People talk about having a long-term vision, but the only vision you can have is to win

Tom Rees came on against Ireland and looked busy. He and Nick Easter are players who've been knocking on the door for a while and now they have the opportunity to cement their places.

Because this England team is far from inked in, everyone still has the chance to stake a claim for the World Cup.

The performance against Italy was disappointing and there was no rebound against Ireland, so it was time to make changes and give other guys the chance to make an impression.

People talk about having a long-term vision, but the only vision you can have is to win.

While there will be one eye on the World Cup, Ashton's main duty is to pick a side to win the game against France.

I believe he knows how a game of rugby should be played. He'll hope this set of players can go out and execute a game-plan.

If they do, England will push France and have a very good game. If not, then it'll be like the game against Ireland and we'll be left asking questions again.




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