Catt springs to Ashton defence

Brian Ashton should be given the chance to build on England's World Cup revival, according to veteran centre Mike Catt. [more]

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Brian Ashton should be given the chance to build on England’s World Cup revival, according to veteran centre Mike Catt.

Catt, the oldest man to play in a World Cup final after turning out aged 36 in Saturday night’s defeat to South Africa, is thought to have been one of a number of senior players who discussed a change of tactics with head coach Ashton following the 36-0 pool stage defeat to the Springboks.

That meeting coincided with a remarkable resurgence that saw England come within one result of retaining the Webb Ellis Trophy.

Ashton, who was promoted from his previous position as attack coach in January in the aftermath of Andy Robinson’s disastrous tenure, sees his current rolling contract comes up for review at the end of the year.

Rugby Football Union director of elite rugby Rob Andrew has insisted that no decision will be taken about the 61-year-old’s future until after a thorough review of the World Cup campaign – and the years that preceded it – has been conducted.

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Catt’s England team-mate Lawrence Dallaglio – believed to be another of the players to have discussed tactical changes with Ashton – stopped short of giving the coach his backing last night.

Catt himself, like Dallaglio a key man in England’s World Cup-winning squad four years ago, criticised some of the Ashton’s methods but insists he deserves to keep his job.

"To be honest, a lot of things were a good example of exactly what not to do, especially with the communication side of things," Catt wrote in his Teletext column.

"Selection has also been a problem with the guys never quite sure of their places, which became pretty draining.

"There’s been a lot of speculation about Brian Ashton’s future, and obviously Rob Andrew needs to complete his review and sit down and decide the direction.

"I’m sure Rob will speak to the team and some will be for Brian and some will be against, but I believe he deserves a chance to carry on.

"It was very tough for him to inherit a side and a backroom staff without the time he needed to gel things together."

Catt is also set to make a decision on his own future and while he appears unlikely to add to his 68 England caps, he is determined to play on for Guinness Premiership club London Irish.

"I know everybody will be looking at me now to find out what I’m doing next, but to be honest I need to speak to my wife and decide on a course of action," Catt said.

"I also need to speak to London Irish to see where I go from here, but I won’t be packing in playing for them just yet, I’m enjoying myself far too much."

Catt hinted at a career at coaching when he eventually does retire, saying: "The events of the last six weeks and the last six months have taught me a lot and that will be invaluable in any future coaching career."

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