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Sorting out teething problems has Mike Catt’s Irish attack purring


Mike Catt: "Right decisions at the right time." Photo: Sportsfile

Mike Catt: "Right decisions at the right time." Photo: Sportsfile

Mike Catt: "Right decisions at the right time." Photo: Sportsfile

Mike Catt’s attack has come a long way since people questioned the direction Ireland were heading in under the ex-England international.

After some early teething problems, the Ireland players have really bought into Catt’s philosophy, which is being heralded and studied far and wide.

The summer tour success in New Zealand has put Ireland’s attacking framework in the spotlight once again, and with a tough November Series on the horizon, the power and physicality of South Africa’s defence will be another major test.

For all the improvements, there is a sense that the Ireland attack is still evolving in a bid to ensure that opposition teams haven’t figured it out by the time they arrive in France for next year’s World Cup.

As Ireland know all too well given what happened after their successful 2018, with such scrutiny comes extra pressure. Catt is relishing that as Ireland’s attack coach.

“It’s just the way we do things, I suppose,” he said when asked if other teams looking to emulate Ireland’s shape was a compliment or a challenge.

“We believe it’s the way the game goes at the moment. It might change a year down the line or whatever.

“You’ve got to remember that it’s been 18, 19 months, nearly two years now that we’ve been in this process. I’ve always said that rugby is about decision-making. That’s all we’ve got the players to do. The players are now making good decisions and that’s manipulating a defence.

“So whichever shape or whatever we put up there, the players have still got the same process to go and make the right decisions at the right time. Ultimately, that’s our goal.”

The good work Catt is doing was further evidenced by what we saw from an inexperienced Emerging Ireland team in their resounding win over the Griquas last Friday.

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Although the standard of opposition was poor, it was clear the young players quickly got to grips with Catt’s strategy, particularly the forwards, who are vital to the shape.

“We’re not asking them to do something they can’t do,” Catt explained.

“We’re asking them to stay square and pass the ball three metres. It’s pretty simple and everybody looks at it as if it’s pulling rabbits out of the hat. It’s a very simple way that we coach and want the player to do.

“As long as they understand what they have to do and why we do it, the players then just have to make the right decision on the back of it.”

It helps that the four provinces are now looking to play an expansive brand of rugby. Munster may have been a little late to the party, but as they look to evolve under Mike Prendergast, Catt believes that closer alignment from the top down is helping drive the success.

“Very much so, even Connacht, we had Pete Wilkins on the New Zealand tour with us and he has taken a few things back there,” Catt said.

“What it does is give a player a bit of a stepping stone so when he comes into an Ireland environment, they understand what we’re trying to achieve, how to do it. They’re not trying to catch up from too far away, so they can adapt quicker.

“Yes, it helps us massively but it helps the player to be selected into the Ireland side as well, that’s crucial and that’s going to bring a lot of competition to the squad. Ultimately, that’s what we want – to select the best of the best.”

Several players have impressed Catt on the Emerging Ireland tour, one of whom is Munster’s Irish-qualified centre Antoine Frisch, who starts against the Pumas today. “Frischy has got that French flair, if I may say that,” Catt added.

“He has got real time on the ball. I’m actually very interested to see how he goes (today). Defensively he is a smart rugby player.

"That 13 channel is obviously hard to defend at but we have got every confidence in him there.

“I think if we can get his hands on the ball, he makes really good decisions. He’s a lot stronger than people sort of give him credit for too.”

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