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Should Mike Catt be Removed from the England Coaching Team?

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Should Mike Catt be Removed from the England Coaching Team? Empty Should Mike Catt be Removed from the England Coaching Team?

Post by yappysnap Mon Feb 24, 2014 10:40 am

Back in 2012 Lancaster took over an England side that had previously played some of the best attacking rugby of the last decade. High scoring victories over Wales, Australia and France were all catalogued and while there were still serious issues around player selection the half backs and backs all seemed comfy running the ball and taking their chances. This only changed at the very end of the previous regime as the weight of expectation, media hype and a lynch mob atmosphere all took their toll on an already fragile England.

Roll forward to 2013 and Lancaster is settled as England head coach, he has his deputies in hard man Andy Farrell, honest grafter Graham Rowntree and attacking skills mystro Mike Catt. Over the past year and a bit we've seen a total over haul of the England team and their style, gone are all the old guard and some of the new guys too; with their departure goes the attacking rugby now replaced by a defence first mindset, lead by Owen Farrell and his metronome of a boot England have become a team who are tough to beat. But they don't score too many themselves. Preferring instead to take the kicks when their on and let the opposition run themselves into the floor.

This format works perfectly for the new look England side as nearly all fall before them, with a rock solid defence and a new pack that can match any in world rugby England are picking themselves back up. Forged in a three test tour of South Africa the forwards can battle with the very best and the backs are happy tackling any one no matter their size.

But still there are problems with the attack. England's players don't look cohesive, their's a distinct feeling of panic when the ball has to go wide at times and all too often it dies at 10 or 12 kicked away poorly or taken into contact. Various centre's come and go due to injury and form Billy Twelvetrees replaces Brad Barritt, Joel Tomkins replaces Manu Tuilagi and then is replaced himself by Luther Burrell. Amongst that Johnathen Joseph gets a few caps and Toby Flood gets some time at 12 before he's consigned to the bench and latterly the bin.

It's not just at centre that there are problems though, star scrum half Ben Youngs is woefully out of form and seems to struggle with the new super regimented tactics that the 9 has to follow, when he plays it's noted he doesn't make any of his trade mark breaks any more, opting to kick or pass to his 10 to kick instead. The same goes for Danny Care when he's on. Alongside the 9 England's 10 Owen Farrell shows impressive composure as he steers the ship but very quickly glaring weaknesses in his game become apparent, he struggles to choose the right options in attack, kicks from hand poorly and often sits too deep.

All this has last two seasons now with little change. Until now at the 2014 6 Nations.

England suddenly have an attacking 9 who's confident enough to take the ball up and trouble defences. Owen Farrell is running flatter and looking to pass wide out to his new faster backs. In the centres a new combo are making their presence felt and finally showing threat ball in hand as well as bringing their wingers into play.

But still there are far too many mistakes. The attacking skills are not there.

Against France England's pack gave them 40 solid minutes of dominance against a tiring French side but the English backs could only score 2 try's in that time although they were often camped in the French 22. A key point was poor passing when the red zone and a lack of composure as players got white line fever.

Against Scotland England comfortably controlled the majority of the game but again wasted chances as too often attacking players decided against offloads and took the ball to the floor which was then slowed down or lost completely. Far too many times the player with the ball didn't look around for support and only charged forward towards the nearest defender.

In the third match of the tournament a tight game against Ireland was made all the tenser by 4 or 5 clear try scoring opportunities being squandered. Unlike in the two previous games England started far stronger and nearly 20 minutes of solid possession gave them three try scoring chances as overlaps occurred on the wings close to the Irish line. Unfortunately every time this occurred the ball carrier opted to take contact rather then look out side them and on the third occurrence when the ball did go wide the initial offload killed the momentum which left the wing with too much to do.
Later at the end of the half a 5m lineout was taken and the ball came cleanly off the top to the backs only for the runner to be isolated and turned over without troubling the defence. In the second half a beautiful move from three club mates (worth noting they all play together year round) produced the kind of try England all too often struggle to score, but after that England reverted to type and wasted another clear opportunity under the Irish posts.

Now yes there is improvement. But to me that's more because of the players that have come in rather then anything a backs coach has done. Mike Catt has been around these players for over two years now and still we've seen a total lack of set plays, strike moves off lineouts or our centre's fixing their man giving the wings space. Very simple things that just aren't happening.

At the moment the English pack are playing out of their skin and we should be winning comfortably, but such is the sloppyness of our backs we're either squeaking wins or losing as we don't do enough.

Look at the effect Schmidt has had on Ireland's attack. Look at what the Quins boys produced with the skills their coaches had given them. Look at how a new look South Africa have thrown off the shackles. Look at the skills shown by New Zealand every season.

England have had a lot of time but the players and coaches just haven't implemented enough. A lot of this has to be down to Catt. A fantastic player his coaching career previously was laughably short and lacking anything of distinction. He may turn out to be a brilliant coach but at the moment he isn't good enough for an Int side. England need a proven coach either at International or club level who understands exactly what they want from their backs and attack and how to get that. Catt seems muddled and struggling to implement any ideas he has at the moment and England will always come second best to the SH sides if we do not improve our attack.

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Post by Rugby Fan Mon Feb 24, 2014 1:11 pm

Catt looks responsible because of his title but I don't think we really know what role any of the coaches actually play. If Andy Farrell is a dominant character within the team then what he says might drown out everyone else. He is the backs coach, and that's where the decision-making has been poor.

Lancaster also bears responsibility. We know from Ashton's comments how Bomber wants wingers to stay out wide. That only makes sense in attack if the rest of the team instinctively looks for options there.

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Post by nathan Mon Feb 24, 2014 6:12 pm

It's showing signs of getting better, at least our backs are now scoring tries. Long way to go yet though.

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Post by Peter Seabiscuit Wheeler Mon Feb 24, 2014 7:25 pm

The difference is that they are now trying to get the ball in the backs hands. Mike Borwn has two tries, more than hed scored in all his previous tests..add in two from Burrell and thats as many tries as theyd scored from outside backs against decent opposition ( OK Im being generous to Scotland) since Lancaster took charge in the course of just 3 games. If you look at the defenders beaten and clean breaks by backs thats gone up too, even in the absence of Tuilagi who previously accounted for a big percentage.
Given they are missing Foden, Jospeh , Wade, Tuillagi and Yarde from their pool of outside backs it perhaps not that surprising that their conversion rate hasnt been as good as it mightve been. Nowell is a makeweight.
Its far from perfect but its better than it was.

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Post by yappysnap Mon Feb 24, 2014 8:25 pm

Is Nowell a make weight?

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Post by Poorfour Mon Feb 24, 2014 9:58 pm

Conor O'Shea has said that when he first took charge of Quins he spent the next season and a half getting them to play fluently in attack (a process that Deano had started 3 years before) because that was the difficult bit (even allowing for the fact that most of the team had played together since their academy days). Only when he'd got that where he wanted it did he allow Diprose to tighten up the defence and create a championship winning side. A season and a half later, we still have the defence but changes in form and personnel have led to a loss of attacking flair.

Lancaster doesn't have the luxury of a year and a half to perfect his attack. He has prioritised defence (and the England defensive system is usually very sound), then added some attacking structure and now seems to have allowed them to cut loose.

All of that has been hampered by constantly changing personnel in the backline. The 2014 6N backline has 3 debutants in it and only one combination (Farrell-36) that has played complete games together before. We have heard repeatedly - including from Johnson and Robshaw - that International rugby is faster and more intense than any other level and takes time to adapt to.

This team has built consistently over the last 2 years, adding new elements even within a series of games The only serious backwards step was in the Italy and Wales games last year. 15 months ago they were damsons in distress. Now a team with even fewer caps than that one are expected to be able to beat everyone and, it seems, do it with style.

I personally am encouraged that England are creating overlaps, even if they can't yet use them effecitvely. It's easier to coach players to recognise and exploit an opportunity than to create one from nothing. I fully expect that given consistent selections England will learn to finish effectively.

I don't understand the impatience with a team that is (despite GE's protestations) rebuilding from a lower base than almost any other in world rugby. As a player, Catt was one of the best readers of the game England has ever had; as a coach Lancaster clearly sees in him the ability to impart some of that to the new generation of players. But it ain't going to happen over night.
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Post by Engine#4 Mon Feb 24, 2014 10:00 pm

I get what what you're saying re the general back play but as regards the two overlaps in either half last weekend, I don't think you can blame a coach.  The halfbacks have to open their eyes, take control and give the ball. At one point in the second half, 5metres from the Irish line, Care went left when he had a multiple-man overlap to his right. I reckon England left 17 points on the field on Saturday that I couldn't put on the heads of the coaching staff

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Post by Rugby Fan Mon Feb 24, 2014 10:30 pm

Poorfour wrote:...15 months ago they were damsons in distress....
That's just plum crazy.

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Post by Poorfour Mon Feb 24, 2014 10:54 pm

Rugby Fan wrote:
Poorfour wrote:...15 months ago they were damsons in distress....
That's just plum crazy.
I know. Some journos need to prune their reactions
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Post by Scratch Tue Feb 25, 2014 3:03 am

Rugby Fan wrote:
Poorfour wrote:...15 months ago they were damsons in distress....
That's just plum crazy.

damsel's don't have plums.

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Post by Jimpy Tue Feb 25, 2014 8:09 am

Scratch wrote:
Rugby Fan wrote:
Poorfour wrote:...15 months ago they were damsons in distress....
That's just plum crazy.

damsel's don't have plums.

Wales have about 3,000,000

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Post by Geordie Tue Feb 25, 2014 8:17 am

I dont think Nowell is a make weight. The couple of errors as per usual have hidden some very good performances from the young lad.

It would be unfair to drop him (like Burrell) just because Yarde, Tuilagi etc is back.

Also Nowell probably has more caps than Yarde and Wade now anyway

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Post by Peter Seabiscuit Wheeler Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:11 am

Nowell had a good first game but has been very anonymous the last two games. He didnt even make a single tackle in the last one, and covered 60m against Mays 170 and Browns 200m
He only got his spot through injuries, hes a place filler till he proves otherwise. Certainly not the player Lancaster/Catt wanted as first choice in the role anyway.
Foden/Yarde /Wade were all ahead in the pecking order.

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Post by fa0019 Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:17 am

You can put lipstick on a pig.... but it's still a pig.

Lets not pretend Owen Farrell is some great attacking genius waiting to emerge. He's not a natural and a good coach will need a lot of time to turn him into an adequate attacking force.

He hasn't been helped by having a top class second receiver until recently but they are improving and I imagine part of this is down to Catt.

Catt was a natural player, a real class operator and one of the best all round players of his generation.

Take him out the way and you would have the following coaching staff

Head coach - ex. backrow
Forwards coach - ex. prop
Defence coach - ex.  RL forward

Do you think those guys are more qualified to run a backline than Catt.. a man who excelled at 10,12 and 15.

Take away one of the best creative players England had is pretty mindless given his technical ability and previous coaching prowess at London Irish.

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