Irish prepare for life without Catt
August 27, 2009
Exiles head coach Toby Booth (right) is keen to utilise Mike Catt's talent off the field © Getty Images
London Irish head coach Toby Booth has revealed that the club are preparing for life without influential play-maker Mike Catt but insists the veteran is still good enough to grace the Premiership stage.
Catt, who will turn 38 next month, stepped into the coaching ranks two years ago as the Exiles' attack coach but refused to hang up his boots. He has since played a pivotal role in the side's development - most memorably guiding them to their first Premiership Final at Twickenham last season.
Many believed that defeat to Leicester Tigers at the home of English rugby would be Catt's final competitive outing in English rugby after a glittering 17-year career for club and country, with even Booth publicly urging him to call it a day.
But on the eve of the new Premiership season it appears that Catt's playing days may not yet be behind him although Booth has once again suggested that the former England international should draw a line under his own career and concentrate on nurturing the next generation.
"We're trying to prepare for life after Mike Catt," said Booth, speaking at the official Premiership season launch. "It's very difficult. It's like trying to replace Woolworths I suppose. He's a bit of an institution."
Booth has bolstered his backline options with the signing of Gloucester fly-half Ryan Lamb, Doncaster No.10 Jamie Lennard and Harlequins stand-off Chris Malone in the off-season and with Catt's help hopes to fill the void left by his talisman.
"Catty's challenge is to take the knowledge in his head and give it to people like Ryan Lamb and Jamie Lennard and people like that and if he's playing then he can't do that. It's very difficult to serve two masters.
"It's all very well having it in here [head], but getting it into someone else is the art of coaching. The more time we can put into that the better the result will be for the individual players on the receiving end.
"Some of the recruitment we've done, for example Chris Malone, provides massive experience on the playing front but you saw how instrumental Catty was in the semi-final last year."
But Booth refuses to rule out turning to Catt at some point this season and points to his form in pre-season as an indication that his age is not a barrier.
"If we need him, he is still the fittest guy in the club, apart from Paul Hodgson, and is still putting people to shame in the fitness tests. If Catty is fit he'll play until he is 100 - that's the kind of guy he is. I'll never say never, but it will probably be a case if 'in emergency break glass'."
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