Monday, March 19, 2007

Strength And Honor

What we do in life echoes in eternity. The Gladiator’s call went out from Mike Catt at Twickenham on the Sunday before last. I was at the game with my son, Ben, and two of his mates from New Zealand, Jose, and The Goose. They loved it. We were certainly at the right game after England's defeat by Wales (back to its unimpressive ways). A beautiful day for rugby that Sunday; 60 degrees, blue skies, sunshine, firm under foot, with the French in town to continue their inevitable Rolling Thunder grand slam. England with 11 changes and the coach, Brian Ashton, a fellow Lancaster Royal Grammar School old boy, was scheduled to be no more than Cannon Fodder. Enter an unlikely hero, Mike Catt, a 35 year old South African captaining England for the first time; a desperation measure. I’ve always had a soft spot for Catty since Jonah Lomu ran through him during the 1995 semi-final in Cape Town where Jonah touched the ball 7 times, scored 4 tries, created 2 and put an Englishman in hospital. As Australian Peter Fitzsimmon said to me after the game, “Rugby doesn’t get much better than that.” But Catty was back. The 35 year old general, after a shaky, nervy start, stood up and led his troops to arousing 26-18 victory. Mike Catt turned into Mike Lion. On that day, an old general, a brave coach and half a dozen young, inspirational players made the difference. I’m a big believer in old heads and young legs (as Mandy Rice Davis said at the height of the Profumo scandal “I would say that wouldn’t I.”) Young players have no fear. Not because they are smarter but because they are radical optimists with no scar tissue. Under the right coaching and mentoring they can be sensational.