England to wing it – Catt

Date published: February 1 2014

England assistant coach Mike Catt said novice England wings Jack Nowell and Jonny May were told to play their natural game.

England's attacking skills coach Mike Catt insists novice England wings Jack Nowell and Jonny May have been urged to play their natural game against France in Saturday's Six Nations opener in Paris.

Exeter's Nowell, who will be making his Test debut, has risen to prominence this season on the back of his ability to burst through tackles while the pure speed of May, who will be winning just his second cap at the Stade de France, has seen him score some memorable tries for Gloucester.

England, for all their world-class forward strength, have long been accused of pedestrian play behind the scrum.

But former England back Catt was adamant that players had been encouraged to use their initiative.

“Something we've reiterated to the players is if it's on, then go,” Catt told reporters in Paris.

“They make their decision – whatever they see they should do.

“If Jonny sees something then he goes, guys have to react around him.

“Jonny's there on merit and for how he plays his game. We don't want him to change the way he plays.”

However, the old rugby adage that 'forwards win matches and backs decide by how many points' is one Catt believes will come into play against a powerful French pack.

“France have picked a six-two (six forwards and two backs) bench so you know what's coming,” he said.

“They're big, physical guys and for you to break them down will take until the 70th to 75th minute. I think the game will be won in that final 10-15 minutes.

“You've got to be smart. Just because we have good attacking runners doesn't mean we run everything. It's about getting the balance right.”

Catt, a member of England's 2003 World Cup-winning squad, said the increased physicality of the game, even since he called time on his playing days, meant tries were at a premium in modern Test rugby.

“Players are getting bigger and more agile and you're tight five are a lot more mobile than they were seven or eight years ago,” he added.

“Your centres are the size of your back row, your wings are the size of your back row, so try getting through that brick wall.

“There's a massive emphasis on defence at the moment and you have to break that down. It's hard.”