Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England's Superkids Give Hope for Future

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England's Superkids Give Hope for Future

Article excerpt


THE selection of Mike Catt as one of the top five players this season would appear to be a sad indictment on English rugby. The 34-year-old World Cup winner is enjoying an Indian summer this campaign as the London Irish captain and may switch to a player-coach role next year.

Patently, for all his wonderful individual skills, Catt is not a man for the future. The Professional Rugby Players' Association yesterday named Catt on the shortlist for the player-of-the-season award alongside two 30-something ex-All Blacks in Justin Marshall and Carlos Spencer, Scotland's captain Jason White and wannabe England scrum-half Shaun Perry.

Clearly, most professionals do not think much of the form produced by current England internationals.

While that may be worrying for England coach Andy Robinson, who will retain his position when a new national coaching hierarchy is unveiled on Thursday, the overall picture is far from bleak.

The England Under-21s won their own Grand Slam, the Under-19s finished third in the recent World Cup while the Under-18s won both their recent competitions.

It is among the late teens and early 20-somethings that English rugby is making the pulse race and many of those young talents are being given a chance to show off their worth in the Guinness Premiership. Rob Andrew, the Newcastle director of rugby, said: "I believe we have the greatest generation of young talent England has seen. Those of us who work closely with the players coming through the Academies at club level can see the depth of talent being produced."

That talent is reflected in the five nominations for the PRA Young Player of the Year, also announced yesterday. The candidates are Tom Rees (Wasps), Tom Varndell ( Leicester), Mathew Tait (Newcastle), Magnus Lund (Sale) and Jon Clarke (Northampton).

Those five are only a glimpse of the young talent that is going to be a factor in Robinson's thinking for the 2007 World Cup and, most notably, for the 2011 tournament in New Zealand. …

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