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Catt happy with fresh options in bid to end an eight-year wait

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Mike Catt

Mike Catt

�INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Mike Catt

While not an anniversary that looms large on the calendar, today marks eight years since Ireland last beat Wales in a Cardiff Six Nations contest.

That the away-day success was under not Joe Schmidt but Declan Kidney offers an indication of just how much water has passed under the bridge since the day best remembered for Simon Zebo's audacious flick of the heel that set up a key score for Cian Healy.

With Irish Rugby's most discussed emigree still persona non-grata thanks to his ongoing employment in France, there'll be no opportunity for the Cork native to repeat perhaps his most famous moment in green when Ireland's Six Nations kicks off against Wales this weekend, yet the visitors' back-three might just contain a little of the same formula.

Zebo's derring-do in Cardiff that day was balanced by the near metronomic steadiness of Rob Kearney at full-back, complementing attributes that the side's current attack coach Mike Catt can see in the Leinster duo Jordan Larmour and Hugo Keenan.

Fit-again after missing the autumn thanks to a shoulder problem, Larmour put a few struggles underneath the high ball behind him when scoring the winning try against Munster last time out and, since he last played for the national side, Hugo Keenan has emerged as a real option for Andy Farrell in the 15 jersey.

With Jacob Stockdale out injured with a knee complaint, the pair seem sure to be released in tandem this Sunday.

"Jordan has some incredible attributes, his footwork, his strength, everything that he has got," reflected Catt.

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"Hugo's work-rate, his work ethic, his non-negotiables are second to none, and he just wants what is best for the team.

"He has come in out of nowhere. The patience that he has and the understanding of what it means to play for Ireland are huge.

"His work-rate is just phenomenal and I think he will get better and better the smarter he becomes as an international player too.

"So, again, he is pretty young where Jordan has that 'X' factor, ball in hand, with which he is very strong.

"They complement each other, really."

Larmour's return to fitness is not the only change likely from the autumn when Farrell names his side on Friday with Tadhg Furlong's 40 minutes for Leinster last weekend after 11 months out expected to see him thrown back into the mix too.

Belfast Telegraph


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