Conor O’Shea has backed Mike Catt to have an immediate impact in Ireland’s new-look management side under Andy Farrell.
The former England international spent the last three years working alongside O’Shea with the Italian national team. Both recently stepped away from their respective roles with Catt set to link up with former colleague Andy Farrell ahead of the 2020 Six Nations.
Catt brings huge pedigree into the Irish set-up having been involved in two Rugby World Cup finals during his playing career (2003 & 2007). The 75-time capped international moved into coaching immediately following his retirement in 2007.
He previously worked as the attack coach for London Irish before accepting an offer to work under current Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster with England in 2012. Catt, as well as Lancaster and Farrell, was sacked from his role in 2015 following England’s dismal World Cup showing on home soil.
Since then, he has been working as the attack coach for the Italian national side under O’Shea who yesterday, backed the former Lion to make an immediate impact with Ireland.
According to O’Shea, Italy’s attack had never been as potent until the arrival of Catt.
“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,” O’Shea said at the launch of N-Pro’s new head guard.
“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.”
O’Shea likened Catt to former Ireland head coach Brian Ashton who was in charge for 12 months between 1996 and 1997 despite being handed a six-year contract.
Despite not gaining success with Ireland, Ashton was successful over two spells with Bath where he coached Catt.
According to O’Shea, the pair are cut from the same cloth and that we in Ireland don’t appreciate Brian Ashton for how good he actually was.
“Mike is from Brian Ashton’s school,” O’Shea said.
“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.”