- Stuart Lancaster on why Mike Catt is the right man for South Africa
- Sees things through the player’s eyes and provides empathy says Head Coach
Stuart Lancaster believes Mike Catt’s experience of international rugby, association to South Africa and coaching pedigree at the top of English rugby made him the outstanding candidate to join the coaching set-up for the summer tour.
South African-born Catt, who played 75 Tests in a 12-year international career, will join England on May 7 when he leaves his position of attack coach at London Irish and has a contract until June 30.
The 40-year-old becomes part of an integrated coaching triumvirate with Forwards Coach Graham Rowntree and Head Coach Lancaster, who said another feature of Catt’s appeal is that he still thinks like a player.
Lancaster said: “I needed to bring someone in short term for the tour that has experience of international rugby, experience of South Africa and coached at the highest level – he was the standout person by a mile.
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“It’s a fantastic opportunity for him and great for us to have someone of his experience and credibility coming into the programme and I think the players will be excited about working with him.
“One thing Mike does understand is that he sees things through the player’s eyes – he spent 12 years as an international rugby player and it wasn’t that long ago he retired so that provides empathy for the players.”
Catt visited South Africa with England in 2000 and 2007 and has a wealth of knowledge Lancaster is keen to tap into, given the vast majority of his likely squad will be touring the country for the first time.
Lancaster also announced that New Zealand coach Wayne Smith has turned down the chance to work with England and will remain in his home country for personal reasons.
And while this is a blow to his long-term plans, Lancaster said he will take stock during the four-month hiatus between the South Africa tour and QBE Internationals in November before indicating Catt is in the best position to impress for the permanent role.
Respect for Smith and his decision
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He said: “Wayne rang me and when we spoke he explained the pulls and the drivers to come to England, the challenge of international coaching, living in England and he was inspired by the vision we’ve created.
“But equally he spoke about his loyalty to New Zealand, his loyalty to Waikato Chiefs and the biggest thing is loyalty to his family. He has elderly parents not too far away and two sons at university and deep down, when they discussed it at the weekend, while they would support his decision, ultimately they didn’t want him to go.
“We have to respect that, we had a go but now it’s a great opportunity for Mike and others to put their hat in the ring.”
Lancaster reiterated that establishing a world class coaching team is his ultimate goal – with either three or four headline coaches – but now the focus should be wholly on South Africa.
“I’ll review [the coaching situation] after the tour,” he said. I’ve got that four month break and the reality is I want to get a world class coaching team in place for 2015. I want to make sure we get it right but I don’t want to rush into it and not do due diligence at the right time.
“I’ve always been of the mind set that we might bring a fourth coach in there anyway but the priority now has to be to get ready for South Africa – it’s a big tour, 40 odd players, 30 odd management, I need to invest my time in that.”