Mike’s mission impossible

Mike Catt will captain a weakened England team against France at Twickenham on Sunday.

Twelve years after being buried by Jonah Lomu in the Newlands turf, Catt has been given the task of leading the world chumps against a French team gunning for the Grand Slam.

Coach Brian Ashton has made 10 changes to the side that was thrashed by Ireland, two of which are positional.

Regular skipper Phil Vickery (concussion), flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson (hamstring) and centre Andy Farrell (back) have all been ruled out of the game. The trio will continue to be assessed during the next few days, with Ashton unsure whether any of the three will regain full fitness in time for England’s final Six Nations fixture against Wales.

Flyhalf Toby Flood and wing Jason Robinson have been brought into the backline. Tim Payne, Julian White, Tom Palmer, Tom Rees and Nick Easter start in the pack, with Martin Corry moved to lock.

Ashton said he had full faith in Catt’s leadership abilities.

“Mike has done a very good job as captain for London Irish this season,” said the coach. “I have been involved with him since 1992 and, if there is any player in English rugby who knows how I want to develop the game, then it is Mike Catt.

“He is a player with a very wide range of skills, and he is a talismanic figure in many ways. He is very knowledgeable about the game, and he is excellent at talking to the players.”

England — 15 Josh Lewsey, 14 Jason Robinson, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Mike Catt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Harry Ellis, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Tom Rees, 6 Joe Worsley, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Martin Corry, 3 Julian White, 2 George Chuter, 1 Tim Payne.
Subs: 16 Lee Mears, 17 Stuart Turner, 18 Louis Deacon, 19 Magnus Lund, 20 Shaun Perry, 21 Shane Geraghty, 22 Mathew Tait.