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'He’s an energy-giver' - Catt backed to make impact with Ireland's attack

Conor O’Shea worked with the Englishman in Italy from 2016 until the recent World Cup.

FORMER ITALY COACH Conor O’Shea has backed Mike Catt to have a positive impact as Ireland’s new attack coach.

Catt spent the past three-and-a-half years working as Italy’s attack coach under O’Shea, with the Irishman pointing out that the Azzurri’s try-scoring record improved vastly under Catt’s coaching.

Former England international Catt has now linked up with Ireland as attack coach under new boss Andy Farrell.

mike-catt Catt has come in as Ireland's attack coach. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Catt played for England 75 times, as well as touring with the Lions in 1997, before moving into coaching upon his retirement from playing in 2007, joining London Irish as attack coach and then taking up the same role with England in 2012 under Stuart Lancaster.

Catt was sacked from his England role in the wake of their poor performance at the 2015 World Cup on home soil, with new boss Eddie Jones opting to bring in a new support staff.

Catt has been working with O’Shea in Italy ever since but will now look to invigorate Ireland’s attack alongside Farrell, who was also part of England’s coaching staff under Lancaster.

O’Shea, who left his role with Italy following the World Cup, praised Catt’s work with Italy and said he can still mix it with players on the training ground with his skills.

“Mike can still do his skill set, he’s unbelievable, so he can still do and show. His hamstrings… they were never in great shape,” said O’Shea yesterday.

“But if you want raw stuff, the Italian team in this World Cup scored more tries in a World Cup than any Italian team before. You could say it was Canada, it was Namibia – the same teams have always been there and we played one game less. I know we might not have scored 20 tries against the All Blacks…

“Historically, for the last four-year period, we have scored more tries than the previous eight years before so all you need to see is that.

“In psychometric parlance, he’s a yellow, he’s an energy-giver, he’s an entertainer.”

conor-oshea Conor O’Shea was speaking at the launch of the N-Pro headguard. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

O’Shea also highlighted how Catt’s former coach Brian Ashton – renowned for his unstructured and skills-based approach – was a big influence on the ex-England international.

Ashton was an assistant coach and then head coach in the Bath set-up that won six Premiership titles from 1989 to 1996, with Catt part of three of those successes. 

Ashton went on to coach Ireland from 1996 to 1998, when O’Shea was part of the squad, but his ambitious approach to attack didn’t quite catch fire. However, O’Shea believes that today’s Irish players are much better equipped to grasp Catt’s philosophy.

“Mike is from Brian Ashton’s school,” said O’Shea. “That Bath team that Brian coached, Mike was pivotal to how Bath played.

“When Brian was here he tried to give us a skill set that we did not have. Mike is coming into a system that is full of skilful players and they have got the skill sets to be pushed. I think he will probably have very similar philosophies to how Brian played the game but I think we will have the armoury to be able to do it.

“We were just not ready for Brian. He was too early for Irish rugby but knew exactly what was needed.

“I’ll be fascinated and I’m sure Catty, in terms of his coaching, has learned a lot in Italy as well because you can’t communicate 100% as it’s not your mother tongue. Mike was coaching in Italian, same as us.

“He will have learned a lot in terms of his communication because you are more succinct because when you don’t have the language, you have to be very careful. You don’t speak too much. I know he’s really, really excited about it.”

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