From his early days as a player/coach with London Irish, Mike Catt has been carving a career as a top international coach, a 10-year journey which brought him from the Exiles to England, to Italy and the latest stop, Ireland.
Now responsible for Ireland’s attack, supporters, journalists and the general rugby public will be keeping a close eye on how he develops and evolves this part of the game which came under plenty of criticism at times during Joe Schmidt’s tenure, especially in 2019.
Although Ireland have yet to play a game, it seems that Catt has already made a big impact on the players, with his positive approach proving a big hit with the group.
The former England international spoke at length on Thursday about how his and Andy Farrell’s philosophy revolves around giving the players greater ownership and producing an environment where they can make better decisions.
This is further reflected in what former London Irish head coach and Director of Rugby, Toby Booth, told Pundit Arena late last year when speaking about Catt’s early days as a coach.
“We believed in an attack based game, we believed what we called, ‘good over evil’,” Booth said.
“We believed the game should be played in the same way. We had good alignment and good trust. So that was the first bit. The second bit was around how we went about that – how we encourage our players to take ownership for that and have an input into that.”
It will be interesting to see whether Catt’s impact will be evident on Saturday against Scotland even though the 48-year-old has only been working with the Ireland squad for a limited time.
Catt has worked with some excellent groups of players whether it was his time with London Irish, England or Italy but when asked what makes this Ireland squad different from the rest, Catt paused and replied without a hint of hesitation that this group doesn’t have an ego problem.
“Very humble guys, extremely hard working and the willingness to learn I think is one of the big things I’ve learned,” Catt said firmly.
“No egos. In other teams I’ve played in and coached there has always been big egos. You have a perception from the outside and you come into it and I must admit, I’ve been very impressed with the group of players that are here.
“There is no time to have this ego, to be above your station. And again, that boils down to your provinces and what it means to play for Ireland, ultimately we need to maintain that. The culture and environment that Andy produces or reproduces is going to make sure none of that happens.”
Irish supporters will be hoping that this culture and environment produce performances on the pitch and that begins with the visit of Scotland to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.