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'Every single player will benefit' - Catt defends value of Emerging Ireland tour

The Ireland attack coach says the trip to South Africa is not just about five or six players.

Ireland hammered the Griquas last Friday.
Ireland hammered the Griquas last Friday.

IRELAND ASSISTANT COACH Mike Catt has insisted that the national team coaching staff are getting great benefit from working with the Emerging Ireland squad on their tour of South Africa.

The young Irish team hammered a poor Griquas team on Friday and will face a new-look Pumas side tomorrow in what could be another big win.

The Emerging Ireland tour has attracted plenty of criticism since it was first announced, with particular frustration that it clashes directly with several rounds of the URC and takes players away from the provinces at an important time. 

However, Catt has stressed the value of this tour from the Irish coaches’ point of view after they named a completely changed starting XV for the Pumas clash.

“I think you should ask the players whether it was worth them coming on this trip or not,” said Catt this afternoon.

“From our point of view, it’s great to work with guys again. There are obviously a few from New Zealand [Ireland toured there during the summer] that we have got on board, but it also gives them a bit of an appetite in terms of, ‘Wow, this is where I want to go. This is what I have to do to get there.’

“Giving players opportunities, I think that’s massively crucial. Some of them probably wouldn’t have played for their provinces. It’s not just about the top five or six [players].

“It’s given them an opportunity to come into a different environment, how can they adapt, and I think long-term, every single one of these players will benefit from the process they have been through.”

The Irish coaches will hope for a more serious challenge from the Pumas tomorrow, although the South African side have seen seven of their Currie Cup-winning team move on and their new signings have not yet joined.

roman-salanoa-and-cathal-forde Roman Salanoa and Cathal Forde start tomorrow. Source: Steve Haag/INPHO

“Well, they have [been together] longer than 10 days, a lot longer than we have been together,” said Catt when asked what kind of test the Pumas will pose.

Catt and co. were very pleased with the cohesion of last Friday’s performance against the Griquas as the Irish team ran in eight tries in total.

Now a completely new Emerging Ireland XV have a chance to impress, with Connacht back row Cian Prendergast captaining the team.

Among the fresh faces is Munster tighthead prop Roman Salanoa, who is a native of Hawaii but qualifies for Ireland on residency grounds.

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The explosive 24-year-old made a good impression off the bench against the Griquas last time out, having done so for Munster in their URC defeat to Cardiff three weekends ago.

“Roman is very comfortable with the way we play in terms of his skill level, he’s very calm on the ball, and he made a couple of good linebreaks there last Friday,” said Catt.

“He’s obviously got a lot to learn in terms of the professionalism and what it takes to become one of the best in the world, but this is a stepping stone for him to get in the right direction.

“[Scrum coach] John Fogarty has been very impressed by his scrummaging ability as well. He is a great addition, a great character, has fitted in perfectly to the group, so let’s hope he goes well tomorrow.”

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