Former Lion urges no fear

Former Lions tourist Mike Catt believes England must play without fear if they are to awake from their current slump. [more]

Former Lion urges no fear

Former Lions tourist Mike Catt believes England must play without fear if they are to awake from their current slump.

Catt, who toured with the Lions in both 1997 and 2001 and was a World Cup winner in 2003, admits that the current crop of England stars have a long way to go to catch up with the all-conquering outfit of six years ago.

And the 38-year-old London Irish attack coach has no doubt that the only way Martin Johnson’s men will speed up their journey along that route is by adopting a no-holds-barred approach in the build up to the 2011 World Cup. 

Catt sees similarities with the difficulties faced by the England of old when he began his lengthy international career, and experience tells him that the modern-day side have to cut loose if they wish to see an improvement in performance and in results. 

“Twelve years ago England could not do a thing right,” said South African-born Catt, who would have played against the Lions for the Southern Kings this summer had injury not intervened.

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“We were trying to find a team, we were trying to find a way to play, we were trying to find some hope,” Catt continued in his Daily Telegraph column.

“Clive Woodward turned to fly-half Paul Grayson and told him to ping the ball around. Clive told us to go out and play. Suddenly we were a different team. 

“That’s what Martin Johnson has to do next week. It doesn’t matter that the opposition is New Zealand. The All Blacks were a mightier side back in 1997 when they were nigh on unbeatable. But the way England played that day with Grayson standing up flat to the line shocked them. Lawrence Dallaglio scored two tries and David Rees lost his teeth in getting another past Jonah Lomu in the 26-26 draw. 

“Johnno should know that you have to take New Zealand on or they will grind you into the dirt. He beat them a few times in his career and he played some of his formative rugby over there.

“It’s time for the England manager to get this team to go out and play, because they are learning absolutely nothing at the moment.”

England have suffered a horrendous injury crisis over recent weeks, with the likes of 2009 Lions Harry Ellis, Riki Flutey, Lee Mears, Simon Shaw, Andrew Sheridan and Phil Vickey joining a host of other top names in being unavailable for selection.

But Catt believes there is still enough talent in the squad to bring about success, but only if England throw caution to the wind. 

“England looked like a team that was afraid of making mistakes and those are the teams that usually make them,” added Catt. 

“In the match against Australia, England tried to chip-kick the ball all afternoon. It was a disaster. On Saturday against Argentina they played a deeply conservative kicking game and it achieved very little except persuading them to play with fear. 

“The amount of errors England made is not acceptable in Test rugby. I could go through most of the team in listing mistakes. 

“I felt sorry for England’s centres. It is very hard to get into the game when you are just chasing kicks all afternoon. Did Dan Hipkiss even touch the ball in the first half? It’s time for England to give it a go. 

“The disappointment is that England needed to move Argentina about but were far too conservative. They only played in the last 15 minutes. The one time they gave Matt Banahan space off quick ball, he took out three defenders. 

“You almost wondered if Banahan would rather cut loose and lose a few teeth than go through another afternoon like Saturday. It would probably be less painful. It’s time for England to stop playing with fear and find out a bit about themselves.”

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