England in Better Spot Now Than Before 6 Nations, Mike Catt Says

The England rugby team is in a better position now than before the 6 Nations despite narrowly losing the title to defending champions Ireland, assistant coach Mike Catt said.

England scored seven tries last weekend in a 55-35 victory over France watched by more than 82,000 fans at Twickenham Stadium, but it wasn’t enough to secure the title. England needed to win by 26 points, and had opportunities to score a try in the closing minutes.

“Seven guys had never played in the 6 Nations competition before, and for them to go through it and the way they came through it, the likes of George Ford and Jonathan Joseph, were very impressive throughout the tournament,” Catt said in an interview at a touch rugby tournament in London’s financial district.

England hosts the sport’s World Cup starting in September. New Zealand is the favorite with U.K. bookmaker William Hill, with odds of 11-8. That means a successful $8 wager will return $11 plus the original stake. England is 10-3, and South Africa is 4-1.

The team got experience in matches at the highest international level, Catt said.

“By the time we get to the World Cup, that’s what it’s all about, it’s getting that vital experience so they can handle the big pressure games,” he said.

Catt played alongside other former top-flight players including former England women’s captain Catherine Spencer in an event staged by financial services company LMAX Exchange and London Wooden Spoon, a children’s rugby charity. On April 15, a team of 15 men will trek to the North Pole to try to set a Guinness World Record by playing rugby on the northern-most part of the world to raise. That would raise 300,000 pounds ($447,000) for Wooden Spoon.

Catt, a World Cup champion with England in 2003, will be warning the national team against getting too excited about this year’s event, which takes place in England and Wales.

“You’ve got to embrace what it all means and get on with it,” he said. “If you get caught up in the big circus that’s going around it, you lose focus of actually why you are there. We’ll be making sure the players realize exactly where they are and what they are doing.”

Ian Ritchie, chief executive officer of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) told U.K. media including the British Broadcasting Corp. yesterday that England’s fourth consecutive runner-up finish in the 6 Nations was “unacceptable,” and that the squad had missed a change to win the tournament.

“He’s our boss, I’m not going to worry too much about what he says,” said Catt. “We put 50 points on a team like France, which is very impressive. Like any other team, we’ve had missed opportunities elsewhere and should have scored points, or shouldn’t have let points in. That’s the nature of the beast. All in all, I think we’re in a really good position going into a World Cup.”

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