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Catt and Farrell put the onus on Ireland's players to make better decisions

The Irish attacking effort was poor last time out in the Six Nations against France.

Ireland boss Andy Farrell and attack coach Mike Catt.
Ireland boss Andy Farrell and attack coach Mike Catt.
Image: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

THE MESSAGE FROM Ireland’s coaches in the wake of a poor attacking performance against France has been impossible to ignore.

They have put the onus firmly onto Ireland’s players to start making better decisions out on the pitch, with attack coach Mike Catt yesterday following head coach Andy Farrell’s lead in that regard. 

Catt’s first two answers about the need for Ireland’s attack to improve concluded with him underlining that “the players have to get that right for this weekend.”

Like Farrell last week, Catt stressed that the Irish players’ decision-making was the most important area for improvement as they look to bounce back from defeats to Wales and France so far in this Six Nations. 

“We’re happy with what we’re creating but then it’s the final pass or the final decision,” said former England and Italy attack coach Catt.

It all begs the question of what Catt and his fellow Ireland coaches are doing in training to improve their players’ decision-making?

“To see the picture really, to see the picture,” replied Catt.

“I think a lot of it comes down to the belief of the player, that he makes the right decision on the back of the picture he sees. The kick, the run, the pass options, the basics in rugby really.

“That’s the key thing, it’s making sure that the players first see the picture and make the right decision on the back of it.”

There is a perception that when Farrell and Catt took over at the start of 2020, they and some of their senior players were keen for Ireland to shift away from the prescriptive Joe Schmidt approach. 

mike-catt Catt previously coached with England and Italy. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

But Catt said he doesn’t go along with that perception.

“No, we’ve still got structure, you know?” said the former England international. “Every team has structure. It’s them making the right decisions on the back of the structure.

“Where the game has changed a little bit, there is much more unstructured attack. There’s lots of turnovers, lots of ball-in-play time now. I think we had 44 minutes of ball-in-play against Wales and we only had nine lineouts.

“So, you can spend all your time doing all the lineouts you want but you might only get six in an attacking position.

“It’s where you put your efforts into the players and the unstructured game from kick return, from counter-attacking and that stuff is where we feel the game is definitely going.”

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The evidence of Ireland working on those areas was not there against France two weekends ago as their attack in those ‘transition’ phases of the game was poor.

The now infamous example of Ireland launching a garryowen with opportunity beckoning on the right after a lineout turnover just a minute into the game still stands out.

Catt believes Ireland’s communication needs to be better if they are to exploit such opportunities – particulary from the centres and outside backs.

“Communication is everything,” said Catt. “In the past, everyone has been very reliant on your nines and 10s controlling a game. So, again, that’s another huge work-on for us.

max-deegan-cj-stander-mike-catt-and-conor-murray Catt wants the outside backs to make their voices heard. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“In terms of the quietness of some of the players, it’s something that we can be so much better at… it’s not just your nine and 10 controlling it, it’s your centres seeing the space.

“It’s your wingers then using that ability to get the ball to them and to see the space and your 15 is involved all the time so, again, that’s a huge one in terms of personalities. We can get more out of the players I believe and, again, that’s a huge work-on in progress.”

It would, of course, be a major surprise if Ireland’s attack doesn’t look far sharper this weekend against Italy, who have conceded 91 points in their two Six Nations games versus France and England so far.

Catt and co. will hope Ireland can build confidence and momentum ahead of their final two games against Scotland and England, with the coaching staff keen to see some of their x-factor players grabbing hold of the game this weekend.

“I think that comes down to the environment and the trust you have in the player, and getting to understand the player,” said Catt when asked how Ireland’s coaches can get more out of individual players in that regard.

“We’ve got some deep thinkers in the team and some of them just need to free themselves up a little bit and go and play the game.

“But every person, every player is different so it’s really getting to know the players and understanding what makes them tick and how they can drag each other through those games as well.

“You know, if it’s not a big attacking game, can we be the best defensive team? Things like that, so it’s small but it’s the players doing it with intent and us driving that intent, I suppose.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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