- Mike Catt talks RFUtv through three-day pre-Argentina camp
- “This is a huge tour for a lot of these young players” – Catt
England’s preparation for the upcoming trip to South America has begun in earnest, with 19 players attending a three-day mini-camp of meetings, conditioning sessions and rugby at Pennyhill Park, Bagshot.
Immediately after leading a rugby session on attacking principles in driving rain, Mike Catt said the most important aspect of the camp was to maintain fitness levels ahead of the visit to a country where England have not won a Test series since 1981.
Stuart Lancaster’s 32-man squad depart for Argentina for the three-game, two-Test tour after the match against the Barbarians at Twickenham on May 26, some three weeks after some of the players finish their domestic season.
Attacking Skills Coach Catt said the England management have learnt the lessons of previous summer tours – and Lancaster’s experiences with England Saxons at the now defunct Churchill Cup – and want to keep the squad in a physical and mental groove.
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“A lot of clubs finish on May 5 before the Premiership semis and final and the Heineken Cup final so it’s about making sure we keep them ticking over,” said the 75-Test cap back.
“The players have had a week or 10 days off so the three days we’ve got them for is about getting them back up to speed with what we want to achieve over in Argentina. The basic principles are important but also maintaining their fitness, so we’ve done a lot of conditioning games and really put them to the sword. It’s been great.”
With 10 away with the British and Irish Lions and five frontline regulars rested, there are 11 uncapped players – including five aged 21 or under – in the final squad to travel to South America, meaning all time together is crucial as England attempt to build a coherent game plan with the new additions.
But, as Catt pointed out, due to Lancaster’s midweek tour games in South Africa last summer and policy of inviting young players training with the senior group at every opportunity, the camp is more about refreshing attacking moves and defensive principles rather than learning them for the first time.
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For example, uncapped pair Christian Wade and Jonny May were try scorers in South Africa and fellow uncapped duo Matt Kvesic and Billy Vunipola trained with England for the majority of the recent RBS 6 Nations campaign.
Catt said: “Conditioning is most important and then the skill and the detail comes in, we can spent a bit of time with the guys off the field to do that too. A lot of the guys have been involved before, which makes it easier.
“It’s very exciting, they’re new, they’re young and there’s a good buzz. I hope the guys have enjoyed it.”
The players depart this afternoon and reconvene on Monday to prepare for the Baa Baas clash. Lancaster will provide a squad update at 5pm after the squad assembles, given those in the touring 32 from Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers are unavailable due to the Aviva Premiership final the day before.
After delivering the classic backline caveat that “backs are only exciting if they get the ball”, Catt outlined his own enthusiasm for working with a crop of young backs who have taken the Premiership by storm this term.
“These young players have all been picked on merit and they’ve all had very, very good seasons,” he added. “It’s about making sure that what they do at their clubs, they do for England. That’s the beauty of what Stuart has created here, he’s going to give the players the freedom to go out and express themselves.
“They now need to go out and take this chance, we’re only two years out from the World Cup so it’s a great opportunity for a lot of the guys to put their hands up. This is a huge tour for a lot of them.”