X-factor Joseph set to rank alongside Guscott

England's George Ford
England's George Ford
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ENGLAND assistant coach Mike Catt has labelled Jonathan Joseph as “phenomenal” after the Bath centre’s brilliant double over Italy further invited comparisons with the great Jeremy Guscott.

Catt is well-placed to judge the 23-year-old’s merit given he was a class centre himself, winning the World Cup with England in 2003, and also played alongside the mercurial Guscott at Bath for eight years.

“I made them four years ago!” he smiled, when asked about the comparison having worked with a young Joseph at London Irish.

“He’s a different player. Jerry was more of a swerving outside-centre, you know, when there’s a big hole in the 13 channel.

“There aren’t many holes any more. So JJ’s footwork and his ability to slip out of tackles, like you saw today and last week, is phenomenal. That’s the X-factor you need to win games.”

Joseph, thriving for the national side outside his Bath fly-half George Ford, now has three tries in two Six Nations games following his stunner in Cardiff.

Ireland have a fortnight to analyse him before they meet in Dublin but can you work out a player like that with such dazzling feet?

Catt said: “Luckily, I don’t have to play against him so you’ll have to ask someone else!

“But he’s very hard to break down, if you get the ball into him early doors. And that’s where George has been phenomenal, too. 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 round them.”

England had always planned to build their backline around Manu Tuilagi, a 13 himself, but head coach Stuart Lancaster has hinted he may switch him to inside centre on his return to fitness to accommodate Joseph.

Catt added: “For Manu to get his place back you’re going to have to see some fireworks there.”