Coach Catt sees Wilkinson’s steel in Ireland’s Johnny Sexton



African News Agency


IRELAND’S attack coach Mike Catt compared captain Johnny Sexton to his former England teammate Jonny Wilkinson yesterday, saying the pair are “different animals” to other players. Catt played alongside Wilkinson when the latter’s drop goal in the last minute of extra-time secured England their only World Cup triumph in Sydney in 2003. Sexton can skipper the Irish to only their fourth Six Nations Grand Slam if they beat England today in his home city of Dublin, in what will be his 60th and final match in the tournament. The 37-year-old, who will retire from Test rugby after this year’s World Cup, can also become the tournament’s record points scorer, which he presently shares on 557 with his predecessor Ronan O’gara. Catt, 51, has worked alongside Sexton since the 2019 Rugby World Cup and says there are many similarities between the two rugby legends. “They’re both obsessive,” he said with a grin at the press conference on the eve of the match. “They’re just completely different mental animals. They’re so in the moment, they’re so in the game. “Everything means a hell of a lot. They’re deep thinkers of the game and it’s bringing that freedom out of them so they can go and perform that’s the crucial thing.” The South African-born coach said the two also bring a feeling of reassurance to their teammates. “How they make people feel around them is what they’re very, very good at as well,” said Catt. “When you stand next to a Jonny Wilkinson or a Johnny Sexton, inside or outside of him, you feel pretty special and (he) makes people around him feel good too.” Catt cautions against taking an England side hammered 53-10 by France last weekend for granted and says they are “a helluva England side”. “You look at that backline, they’ve played in some big games together,” he said. “So, there’s no way we’re thinking anything other than it’s going to be a tough, tough Test match and they’ve got some proper X factor, and I think Henry Arundell is one of those players that we haven’t seen a massive amount of.”