Catt: Ruthless London Irish can mix it with the bestBy Steve Williams
January 09, 2009
Exiles muscle up against rivals
Mike Catt believes London Irish’s success this season is down the fact that they refuse to be pushed around any more.
Irish go into tonight’s clash against Sale Sharks at Edgeley Park (7.45pm) two points clear at the top of the Guinness Premiership.
And victory would put them 14 points ahead of fifth-placed Sharks with 10 games to go– well on their way to a top-four finish and automatic Heineken Cup qualification.
And Exiles’ attack coach and England World Cup winner Catt said: “We’re altering things weekly, especially the attacking side of things. It’s coming up with all those things that’s keeping the boys fresh and it’s where Toby (Booth) and Allan Ryan, our fitness guy, are brilliant.”
Irish now have a formidable pack, led by skipper Bob Casey, that can match any in the Premiership.
Catt said: “Our forwards have been good and that’s down to the physicality that Allan Ryan has brought to them.
“London Irish have been bullied in the past and now we believe we’ve got the strength and we can muscle up against the big teams – that makes a huge difference to your confidence.”
Catt added: “Very rarely do you get a chance to beat Gloucester by 40 points, for instance, but we took our opportunities very well and that’s a sign of a maturing side and a very competitive side – ruthless in fact.”
Irish welcome back two experienced internationals, Clarke Dermody and Danie Coetzee, for the trip to Sale.
Dermody, the All Black prop, and Coetzee, the Springbok hooker, start in the front row alongside Tonga Lea’aetoa, the only changes to the Exiles line-up that defeated Newcastle Falcons at Madejski Stadium last Saturday.
But attack coach and England World Cup winner Mike Catt admits Irish will do well to come away with the points from Edgeley Park tonight.
He says: “It’s a very tough place to go and if Mark Cueto, Luke McCallister and Charlie Hodgson start controlling the show, we’re going to be in for a long night.
“So it’s vital we close these guys down and then implement our game plan on what we want to do.
“These guys owe us for when we won 28-6 at Madejski in October. We were the first team to put any points on them with four tries so it’s going to be pay-back time from their side of things.”
Irish have the meanest defence in the Premiership and, having picked up a losing bonus point from all three of their defeats on the road, it’s one of the reasons why they are two points ahead of Gloucester at the moment.
Catt said: “It’s something we’ve worked on throughout pre-season in that we need to make sure that if we do lose we only lose by a certain number of points and it all seems to be working and going to plan.
“The boys have done very well. To me, we have been consistently good throughout the season and it’s vital we keep that going through the New Year.”
Exiles’ success also stems from his and head coach Toby Booth’s brand of management, built on ex-coach Brian Smith’s foundations, that has helped transform the team into a lethal attacking unit.
“We play a particular way and we’re pretty hard to analyse. We have set structures like other teams do, maybe not to the same extent as Wasps who do the same thing continually but other teams are also street-wise and your kicking games got to be spot-on.
“We know it takes 70 minutes to grind a side down and it’s in that last 10 minutes when we can apply the pressure.
“With the smallish squad we’ve got we’ve had a few injuries recently with Delon Armitage, Sailosi Tagicakibau, Nick Kennedy and Clarke Dermody all out, so for us to still be where we are is all credit to the squad that we’ve got.”
London Irish: Hewat; Ojo, Seviali’i, Mapasua, Homer; Geraghty, Hodgson; Dermody, Coetzee, Lea’aetoa; Hudson, Casey (c); Danaher, Armitage, Hala’Ufia. Reps: Corbisiero, Paice, Kennedy, Thorpe, Gower, Fury, Catt.