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'Deep thinkers must free their minds': Mike Catt seeks improvement in players' decision-making


Mike Catt has come in for criticism following some of Ireland’s recent displays

Mike Catt has come in for criticism following some of Ireland’s recent displays

©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Mike Catt has come in for criticism following some of Ireland’s recent displays

Before he was put forward for media duties yesterday, Mike Catt must have been wondering about that burning sensation in his ears.

The attack coach says he hasn't seen a headline with his name on it and isn't aware of the criticism that's flowed his way since Ireland scored one fortuitous try in a muddled 80-minute performance against France last time out.

Even Catt's boss described the display of Ireland's attack as a worry, so it probably won't come as much of a surprise to the former England international that his performance has been the subject of much discussion in the eight days since Ireland's worst start to the tournament was confirmed.

Yesterday's virtual briefing was a chance for the 49-year-old to outline his vision and explain what's gone wrong, where he's seen progress and how he intends to put it all right.

Catt said he understands why there would be criticism of the team's performance, but he appeared somewhat bemused by the repeated questions about the impotence of the attacking game.

Like his boss, Catt was adamant that an improvement in the players' decision-making would see an uptick in Ireland's attacking play.

His role is to facilitate that decision-making and he was asked what he is doing to help the players get better at taking their chances.

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"To see the picture really. To see the picture," he replied. "I think a lot of it comes down to the belief of the player, that he makes the right decision on the back of the picture he sees.

"The kick, the run, the pass options, the basics in rugby really.

"That's the key thing, it's making sure that the players first see the picture and make the right decision on the back of it."

France produced moments of individual magic to break the game open, but Ireland often laboured without inspiration.

Speaking after the game, Farrell said his side contains players who possess the X-factor needed to break games open, but that those players must take responsibility for grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck.

And Catt said it was up to the likes of Garry Ringrose and James Lowe to simplify things in their heads so that they can take the next step.

"That comes down to the environment and the trust you have in the player, and getting to understand the player," he said.

"We've got some deep thinkers in the team and some of them just need to free themselves up a little bit and go and play the game.

"But every person, every player is different, so it's really getting to know the players and understanding what makes them tick and how they can drag each other through those games as well.

"You know, if it's not a big attacking game, can we be the best defensive team? Things like that, so it's small but it's the players doing it with intent and us driving that intent, I suppose."

There is a perception that Catt and Farrell are attempting to deprogramme the players from the highly regimented attacking game of the Joe Schmidt era but Catt doesn't fully agree.

"No, we've still got structure, you know?" he said.

"Every team has structure. It's them making the right decisions on the back of the structure.

"Where the game has changed a little bit, it is much more unstructured attack.

"There's lots of turnovers, lots of ball in play now. I think we had 44 minutes ball in play against Wales and we only had seven lineouts to play off.

"So, you can spend all your time doing all the lineouts you want but you might only get six in an attacking position.

"It's where you put your efforts into the players and the unstructured game from kick-return, from counter-attacking, and that stuff is where we feel the game is definitely going.

"We haven't changed absolutely everything in terms of the game.

"The game is still a simple game. People have to make the right decisions at the right time."

Belfast Telegraph

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