Joseph has England X-Factor


Published: Monday 16th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Mike Catt insists “lethal” England sensation Jonathan Joseph has the ‘X-factor’ to unpick defences in an era of the game when size is everything.

Joseph has drawn comparisons with Jeremy Guscott after plundering three tries in two RBS 6 Nations matches, a strike rate that has identified him as the Championship’s outstanding talent heading into the third round.

Wales and Italy, who were crushed 47-17 at Twickenham on Saturday, have already fallen victim to his dancing feet and explosive pace and the 23-year-old will spearhead the assault on Dublin for the crucial clash with Ireland on March 1.

Catt played with Guscott for England and Bath and has been offering guidance to Joseph, now in his role as Red Rose attacking skills coach but formerly at London Irish where the seven-cap international’s professional career began.

At 6’0″ and just over 14 stones, Joseph is small for a modern Test centre, but Catt insists his dazzling skills mark him out as exceptional.

“Jonathan is a different player to Jerry. Jerry was more of a swerving outside-centre when there’s a big hole in the 13 channel. There aren’t many holes any more,” Catt said.

“Jonathan’s footwork and his ability to slip out of tackles, like we’ve seen against Wales and Italy, is phenomenal.

“That’s the X-factor you need to win games. You need X-factor like that to be able to break defences down.

“Everybody thinks international rugby is all about size, but players who play against Jonathan Joseph don’t want to defend him because he’s lethal. He’s a hard man to stop.

“At London Irish we all thought: ‘wow, this bloke’s got something about him’. He’s since moved clubs and learned a lot.

“We always knew what he had, it was just a case of when we’d see it. There’s only so much you can push someone. And he’s decided the time is now.”

Catt believes Joseph’s understanding with fly-half George Ford, his Bath team-mate, has been key to success after 18 months in the international wilderness.

“Jonathan is very hard to break down if you get the ball into him early doors. And that’s where George has been phenomenal too,” Catt said.

“George gives him early ball and then he’s able to see what’s in front of him. He just plants guys down and gets around them.

“He’s never tackled behind the gain line, he always makes an extra two or three metres.

“He always beats that first defender. And that’s crucial when it comes to attack, especially in that 13 channel.”

Joseph’s presence in the team has been a product of fate with Manu Tuilagi, who was considered England’s first choice outside centre, likely to miss the entire Six Nations with a chronic groin injury.

Once Tuilagi is restored to full fitness – he is expected back before the end of the season, although no date has been set for his return – head coach Stuart Lancaster faces the unprecedented luxury of having quality options in midfield.

Tuilagi’s wrecking-ball presence makes him hard to ignore, so Lancaster believes moving the British and Irish Lion to inside centre and retaining Joseph may be the solution.

“Manu can certainly play 12, there’s no doubt about it. He’s played there before for us,” Lancaster said.

“His role in attack is very much as a 12 in that he’s very much the guy who gets us across the gainline.

“He defends at 13 but he’s equally comfortable defending at 12 and to a certain extent having someone of that size and presence at 12 is not a bad thing either.

“It’s hypothetical at the moment because he isn’t going to come back in the short term, but it could be a potent combination.”

Published: Monday 16th February 2015 by The News Editor

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