Former England and Lions star Mike Catt to join Ireland's backroom team
Mike Catt is to join Ireland as attack coach after the World Cup in Japan in the autumn.
The IRFU are expected to announce the appointment in the coming days, completing the Ireland coaching roster with Andy Farrell as head coach, Simon Easterby and John Fogarty looking after the forwards and scrum respectively, and Catt on attack with Richie Murphy as skills coach.
The arrival of Catt revives a partnership he had with Farrell from 2012-2015 when they both served with England under Stuart Lancaster. In the cleanout that followed the 2015 World Cup, Catt moved to assist Conor O'Shea in Italy.
Before being promoted to the England staff, Catt had been attack coach with London Irish for four seasons following a playing career that spanned Bath and London Irish, on top of 75 caps for England and two Lions tours. Brian Ashton, who himself coached Ireland briefly in the mid 1990s, has always been an admirer of Catt.
"It's an interesting appointment and there's obviously good chemistry there between himself and Andy Farrell," Ashton says. "So he's someone Farrell trusts. I coached him at Bath and England and he was an instinctive player, bordering on maverick – which for me was fantastic. He had a broad range of skills that allowed him play 10, 12, 13 and 15 and he was great to work with.
"Even though Italy's results haven't been great I think any discerning rugby person would accept they're playing much better rugby now than four or five years ago, and Mike's had an impact on that. Hopefully with Ireland he'll coach the way he played, which could be very interesting because he'll have good players to work with."
Elsewhere, an IRFU spokesman disputed the theory floated during the week that World Rugby's proposed World Championship was sunk solely by Ireland and Scotland. The tournament was scheduled to start in 2022 with an annual competition involving 12 teams.
"That's convenient but doesn't reflect the reality," he said. "There were plenty of objections across the board and it simply wasn't going to work."
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World Rugby, according to chairman Bill Beaumont, will continue to explore other alternatives to enhance the value and competitiveness of the international game. The proposal was designed to bring financial certainty to Test rugby but it was widely accepted that it did little or nothing to improve the lot of Tier 2 rugby nations.