Catt: Ashton still has big role to play

RETIRED England centre Mike Catt believes coach Brian Ashton still has a role to play with the national side, despite making some unflattering comments about the coach’s tenure in the aftermath of the World Cup.

Catt, along with fellow veteran Lawrence Dallaglio, was credited with some blunt assessments of Ashton’s handling of the squad during the tournament in France.

Soon after the final, which he started as England went down 15-6, Catt said: “To be honest, a lot of things were a good example of exactly what not to do, especially with the communication side of things.

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

But speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme, Catt insisted his view of the former Bath coach evolved over the course of the competition.

Reflecting on the headlines which saw him pitted against his former coach at the Recreation Ground, Catt said: “That was one article and it’s not the way I wanted it to be produced.

“It is very damning but if people read the chapter (in Catt’s book), it is just the headlines that are damning.

“I did the World Cup on a diary basis and I thoroughly believe that is how I felt eight or nine weeks ago.

“What that doesn’t bring up is that I’ve had 15 very good years with Brian Ashton and I have the utmost respect for him.

“If I wasn’t writing an autobiography, I wouldn’t have said those things but it was important (to do so) about the first three weeks of the World Cup to put people in the right mindset to consider how far we’ve come.

“I feel completely different now about it.”

Catt, at 36 the oldest man to appear in a World Cup final, went on to back Ashton to continue his work with the Rugby Football Union — albeit as part of a new-look management structure.

“I think Brian is a fantastic coach. He’s one of the main reasons I am here.

“He’s got a hell of a lot of knowledge on the attack side of things and if they can get the right staff and coaches around him he’s one for the job. When Brian coaches he is fantastic.”

Several options have already been discussed regarding a new structure behind the scenes — with a more hands-on role for director of elite rugby, Rob Andrew, also suggested.

Catt is supportive of that notion, but would not like to see Jake White, the man who masterminded South Africa’s triumph in Paris, take the helm.

“I think there are enough good people in England to do that job,” he said. “Let’s keep it as English as possible.”

Catt starts his own coaching career this season — as well as continuing with his playing duties at London Irish — and he has already set his sights on a future in the international arena.

“I would thoroughly enjoy that. I need to earn my stripes at club level — earn my stripes and make my mistakes there — and maybe after three or four years get to coach at national level.”

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