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Veteran Catt recalled against Australia; host France fears losing on foreign turf

Veteran Catt recalled against Australia; host France fears losing on foreign turf

Veteran Mike Catt has been recalled to help England hold on to the Rugby World Cup though the trophy looks ever more likely to be heading south.
England has been forced to replace an injured 32-year-old, Andy Farrell, with someone four years older and it got even worse for coach Brian Ashton on Friday when his best backup midfielder, Olly Barkley, was also ruled out after an injury he picked up in training.
Trying to sound upbeat, Ashton said Catt was an experienced, allround player who would do a fantastic job in Saturday's quarterfinal against Australia. The fact that Catt is 2-0 against the Wallabies in World Cups _ the 1995 quarterfinal and the 2003 final _ could add some good fortune.
He could even prove to be the charm, the 'lucky back Catt.'
"I've always enjoyed games against Australia, I've played against them 12 times now, and I'm sure it'll be a great occasion," the South African-born Catt said. "I've always said 'never say never' and it's a chance for me to go out there and perform."
England faces the two-time World Cup winner in Marseille on Saturday, when France also takes on New Zealand in Cardiff. The winners meet in the semifinals and, if the bookmakers are right, that will be Australia vs. New Zealand.
On the other side of the draw, South Africa should be confident of beating Fiji and then set up a semifinal against Argentina, which is strongly favored to beat Scotland at the Stade de France on Sunday.
That would make it a southern hemisphere shutout.
Host France fears its title chances will disappear on foreign turf.
Because Bernard Laporte's team lost the opening match of the championship to Argentina, it finished second to the Pumas in their group. That means going to Cardiff to meet the All Blacks instead of a much easier game against Scotland in Paris at the Stade de France.
Some of the players are disappointed that the organizers didn't make sure that France stayed at home as group runner up.
"The federation shot itself in the foot with that," lock forward Jerome Thion said on Friday. "The fans have not been able to travel like they would like to. It's complicated and it costs a fortune. It's France 2007 (hosting the competition) ... it's a little bit incomprehensible."
Now Les Tricolores face a New Zealand team which has won all its group matches with ease, amassing World Cup records along the way (309 points and 46 tries).
South Africa also has had a gentle walk into the quarterfinals although its backup team initially struggled against Tonga. Now the Springboks, who also beat Samoa, play a third Pacific Island team, Fiji, which has its playmaker and top kicker Nicky Little sidelined with a knee injury.
Seremaia Bai has switched from center to flyhalf to replace Little and, although scrumhalf and captain Mosese Rauluni is happy with the switch, it is bound to weaken Fiji's chances.
"Bai's got a lot of experience. I've played with him a lot, including the Pacific Islands team when we played the Tri-Nations teams," he said. "He's a great communicator. He'll look at the situation and see what's right. I've got all confidence in him."
Argentina is relieved that its own kicker, Felipe Contepomi, has recovered from flu to take his place against Scotland and go kick-for-kick against Chris Paterson.
The Scots are the only team in the championship to not miss a kick so far _ 20 in all _ and Paterson's six penalties gave them a 18-16 victory over Italy to clinch their sixth consecutive place in the World Cup quarterfinals.
"Scotland are saying they have nothing to lose which could be dangerous for us," said coach Marcelo Loffreda, who has named the same lineup that beat Ireland 30-15. "We will try and play a match like the one we did against Ireland. Scotland have the weapons to make you pay if you don't play your best game."


Updated : 2021-10-25 04:10 GMT+08:00