Catt wants Ireland to end lengthy season in style against USA

Andy Farrell is expected to ring the changes for match in front of 3,000 at the Aviva

Andrew Conway, Caelan Doris and Jacob Stockdale at Ireland’s squad training session at the Sport Ireland campus in Blanchardstown. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Andrew Conway, Caelan Doris and Jacob Stockdale at Ireland’s squad training session at the Sport Ireland campus in Blanchardstown. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

The great style debate rumbles on. Japan will have that effect. The Brave Blossoms’ performances over the last two Saturdays, especially in Ireland’s 39-31 rollercoaster win, reinforced their status as Test match rugby’s great entertainers.

No doubt some in the 3,000 rival home supporters who were welcomed back to the Aviva Stadium, along with many, many more watching on television, must have wished Ireland could emulate a little of the Brave Blossoms’ brio.

Even Mike Catt has intimated as much.

“Yeah, you can learn from any team who play a game like that. They are a top -quality, attacking side. Again, they showed it on the weekend. They are very hard to stop when they get going. Their broken field stuff is pretty impressive and they have some big guys there that can create defences some massive problems.

“I love the way they’re coached, I love the way they’re nice and flat and they’re composed in their attack. It’s something we obviously take away from them, that composure and their skill set for them to move the ball.”

By the same token, each to their own. Ireland are more pragmatic, and have maintained an onus on retaining possession, especially in the opposition 22, and this helped to yield five tries.

Arguably, Japan could apply a little more pragmatism to their distinctive style, such as when rolling the dice inside their own 22 and coughing up the lead on half-time.

Japanese players look to free their hands and play the ball out of the tackle more, albeit the post-match stats have since reduced their successful tally of offloads from 11 to 10, while upping Ireland’s to five – which again makes you wonder about the metrics used.

Twice, early in the second half, attempted offloads by Caelan Doris didn’t go to hand, but whatever about their execution Catt was non-committal as to whether they were the right or wrong decision.

“Well, you tell me. You think Caelan’s at the start of the second half was the right or wrong decision?”

In a general sense, Ireland’s attack coach said: “Everybody wants to see them offload and stuff, but it’s about making the right decision and doing the right thing at the right time.

“Ultimately, I’ve always said, rugby is about decision-making and if you get yourself halfway through a tackle and [you have] the ability and are able to do it, then we never say no.

“Faz [Andy Farrell] has never put a blanket on somebody or anybody saying ‘don’t do this, don’t do that’. If it’s the right thing to do and it comes off, keep doing it.”

Similarly, as to whether he’d like to see Ireland offload more, he said:

“If it’s the right thing to do, yes.”

Sign off

Ireland sign off a prolonged 2020-21 season against the USA on Saturday (kick-off 7.15pm). At Twickenham last Sunday in their 43-29 win against the same opponents, Eddie Jones afforded eight players their debuts in the starting XV and another four off the bench – the most new England caps in a single match since 1947.

Coincidentally, Ireland picked a dozen uncapped players in their 37-man squad for these two matches, only one of whom, the replacement Gavin Coombes made his debut. While it’s unlikely Farrell and co will be as radical, it’s likely that some Test careers will be given the chance to take flight against the Eagles, as well as first starts for Ryan Baird, Coombes and Craig Casey.

“We have just finished a training session and that was the final one before we go into selection, so as a group of coaches we actually haven’t sat down to finalise the actual team yet. But yeah, we do see a few changes happening this weekend.”

Catt admitted there was a difficult balance between imparting information and not overloading them.

“It’s very hard to do, especially with some guys who play completely differently or have a completely different mindset or philosophy with their clubs. But they’re not here because they can’t learn and they’re not here because they don’t study,” said Catt, who added it was a question of “simplifying everything”.

All that said and done, Catt expects this Irish team to deliver on Saturday, specifically: “A composed, clinical performance. Something we’re in control of, it’s not erratic, we’re in pure control of what we want to achieve as a group, as a team. And not to get too far ahead of ourselves.

“There are going to be opportunities and it’s just making sure we’re clinical with our decision-making. Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about – we play the way we want to play the game and control that.”

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