Mike Catt backs Jack Nowell to shine for England against France
Mike Catt insists England’s uncapped backs Jack Nowell and Luther Burrell are ready for their Test baptism in Saturday’s Six Nations clash with France.
Nowell and Burrell will make their debuts on the right wing and at outside centre, while Jonny May wins his second cap after being given the number 11 jersey.
It is a risky selection from England as they prepare for one of the championship’s greatest challenges, but Catt is convinced they have the temperament to succeed at the Stade de France.
“Having worked with the guys and seen what they’ve achieved over the past year in their development, they warrant their selection,” said Catt, England’s attacking skills coach.
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“We feel that those players are ready to play international rugby. For us it’s not a gamble, it’s an exciting time.
“And it’s an exciting time for those players too, 20 games out from a World Cup. They need to capitalise on the opportunity.
“Jack’s a very confident guy who has fitted into the group exceptionally well. He’s about work ethic and work rate.
“Luther has come through one hell of a lot over the past ten to 15 years of his life to get this opportunity.
“It’s a massive step forward for him as a player and person. He will deliver.”
Burrell plays at inside centre for Northampton, where his powerful running and improving hands have made a significant impact, but it is in the number 13 jersey where he will be expected to excel in Paris.
“We’ve had two weeks together, which helps massively, and Luther was involved with us during the autumn. He’s fully integrated,” Catt said.
“We’re not going to ask him to do things he doesn’t do at Northampton. They’ve developed him and created this exceptionally good rugby player, so we want him to do the same for England.”
France enter the match as odds-on favourites and England have been braced for an epic struggle.
“For me it’s massively exciting. It’s one hell of an atmosphere at the Stade de France,” Catt said.
“Some of our guys haven’t experienced it, we’ll see if they thrive in this situation. It’s one hell of a cauldron and we’re coming up against a big, world-class French side.”
Les Bleus have won only two of their last 11 matches and finished last season’s championship bottom of the table.
Head coach Philippe Saint-Andre insists that while there has been patience as they seek to establish a settled line-up, it will soon run out unless they start winning.
“This match is huge for us because we need to start the Six Nations with a win,” he said. “England performed well last year, while 2013 was very, very disappointing for us. But we knew it would be difficult with so many new players.
“The French public love the French team. They understand. But they also want success, so it’s time for us to win some games.
“And we always say ‘if you beat England then your international season is not so bad’. So it’s huge for us.”