Mike Catt says no hangups in Ireland camp despite disappointing season end for provinces

Sam Prendergast’s underage performances and flexibility praised by coaching staff

Ireland's assistant coach Mike Catt. Photograph: Tom Maher/Inpho

Ireland backs’ coach Mike Catt confirmed that a fully focused Ireland will travel to South Africa with any legacy issues arising from the disappointing end to the season for Leinster and Munster.

The 35-man squad travel tomorrow and Wednesday and there are no injury concerns with everyone expected to take part in training this afternoon.

Catt said: “We got the boys in for two days last week, really good two days, getting them back up to speed with the way we want to play and getting them back into the mindset that we need to go and perform at our best to win a series down in South Africa.

“I think you have to understand that this squad has been around a long time now. They fully understand, as do the coaches, what it’s about. You don’t dwell, you don’t mope around, you get on with it and like I say, the challenge is real for us, so it’s about making sure we put our best foot forward and go and perform. Get over what’s happened in the past and let’s go and do it.”


The notion of absent friends, specifically Jamison Gibson-Park (injured) and Hugo Keenan (Ireland Sevens) is not something that Cat or the squad will dwell upon. He pointed to the fact that the three scrumhalves Conor Murray, Craig Casey and Caolin Blade have all experienced the Ireland camp and Test match rugby to varying degrees.

“These guys have been around camp for the past three, four years or 12 or 15 years whatever Mur [Conor Murray] has been around. It’s not going to change anything in terms of how we do things, it just gives those other guys an opportunity again to cement their place going forward.”

He also offered an insight into the outhalf situation and especially the decision to bring the uncapped Sam Prendergast to South Africa. “Sam has performed exceptionally well in the [Irish] 20s, and when he’s played for Leinster, he has done well.

“Again, I think his potential and his ceiling is very, very high and we haven’t even seen the start of it yet. He is very, very exciting. Having someone like Frawls [Ciarán Frawley} in there who’s got an extremely high skillset [is great], but also, if you are going to look at going to a 6/2 bench, he comes into the scene because he can cover so many different positions.

“There is a good combination, and three or four players who we can choose from, so it’s a healthy environment.”

He was asked what it would mean to win a Test series in South Africa. “Well, it’s never been done before. We haven’t spoken about it, whether it gets spoken about today, it might be the case, but we went down to New Zealand to challenge ourselves to do something that had never been done before.

“I think that’s going to be the same situation, us going to South Africa against world champions. The hype is big, it’s massive. It’s massively exciting. We understand it’s a huge challenge, but we’re going to embrace it and go with it.

“I think every time you pull on a green jersey is massively important. You’re inspiring the nation. Andy [Farrell] and the team have done exceptionally well in doing that, and it’s making sure we maintain that and keep that level very high so we can inspire young kids to come into the game, and the rest of the nation to support us.”

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer