Six Nations: Mike Catt says England not gambling with debutants against France

Last Updated: 31/01/14 2:24pm

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Luther Burrell and Jack Nowell training at Pennyhill Park ahead of their debuts

Luther Burrell and Jack Nowell training at Pennyhill Park ahead of their debuts

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Mike Catt says England are not taking a gamble by naming uncapped backs Jack Nowell and Luther Burrell in the starting line-up for senior debuts in Saturday's Six Nations opener with France in Paris.

Nowell and Burrell will play on the right wing and at outside centre respectively, while Jonny May wins his second cap after being given the No 11 jersey.

"Having worked with the guys and seen what they've achieved over the past year in their development, they warrant their selection."
Mike Catt

It is a risky selection from coach Stuart Lanacaster 18 months before a home World Cup and as they prepare for one of the championship's greatest challenges.

However, Catt is convinced the new caps and the team 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.

"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 10 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."

Significant impact

Burrell plays at inside centre for Northampton, where his powerful running and improving hands have made a significant impact, but it is in the No 13 jersey where he will be expected to excel in the French capital.

"We've had two weeks together, which helps massively, and Luther was involved with us during the autumn. He's fully integrated," Catt said.

Tough selection decisions for Lancaster

"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, physical, world-class French side."

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