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Friday, January 20, 2006


Other Unions / Teams: Catt to try his hand at coaching?

Perhaps with the resumption of Jonah Lomu's rugby career in the UK, it might be a fine time for Mike Catt to consider hanging up the old boots?

By David Hands

LEICESTER’S search for a head coach to replace Pat Howard at the end of this season is no nearer resolution, but they have Mike Catt in their sights. The former England utility back’s two-year playing contract with London Irish is approaching its conclusion and, in talks over a possible next stage to his career, Leicester are said to have been “hugely impressed”.

Catt, though a couple of years older than Howard at 34, would not be considered for the head coach’s role but as a backs coach. Leicester are reconsidering the parameters of the job for which they initially short-listed Scott Johnson, Jim Mallinder and John Kirwan, but, for differing reasons, they are having to start again.

Johnson, the Wales skills coach, is more likely to return to his native Australia, where a new coaching regime for the Wallabies will be in place; Mallinder, late of Sale Sharks, has committed himself to the RFU’s national academy and Kirwan, coach to Italy last year, has no experience of the Guinness Premiership.

“Leicester is not the easiest place to come into — sometimes it’s intimidating,” Howard, who has fitted into the East Midlands wonderfully well, said this week. Leicester have not yet given up hope that Howard can be persuaded to stay, but if they believe that Catt can play a part in their future, they must woo him away from the Irish.

It is likely that the exiles have spoken to him about the possibility of a player-coach role when his playing contract ends. Were he to accept a position at Leicester it would reunite him with Austin Healey, bringing together two of the freer spirits to play for England in the past ten years, even if Healey next season will play only part-time. It would also introduce a player who, during a decade with Bath, was at the heart of the inveterate rivalry between the clubs.

Leicester have Richard Cockerill in his formative years as a coach, so they would be looking for an older, more experienced figure to complete their coaching panel were Catt, with 65 caps and a World Cup winner’s medal, to join them.

Gloucester have signed Will James, the former Wales A lock, on a two-year deal. James, 29, has been playing for Cornish Pirates in National Division One and will arrive at Kingsholm in July for his first taste of the Premiership but bringing with him considerable experience, including Heineken Cup appearances with Pontypridd.
Every time I see that picture full size, I thank my lucky stars that I wasn't next in defence....

I was at Newlands that day and I've never seen one man single handedly destroy a team the way Lomu destroyed England.
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