The now retired Jonny Wilkinson (2nd L) and Irish captain Johnny Sexton played against each other
Dublin (AFP) - Ireland attack coach Mike Catt compared captain Johnny Sexton to his former England team-mate Jonny Wilkinson on Friday, 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 Five/Six Nations Grand Slam if they beat England on Saturday 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 betwee the two rugby legends.
“They’re both obsessive,” he said with a grin at the eve-of-match press conference.
“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 big noise’ -
The South Africa-born coach said the two also bring a feeling of reassurance to their team-mates.
“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 makes people around him feel good too.
“There are a lot of comparisons in there but ultimately you’ve got to deliver on the hype on the big stage and both Jonny and Johnny did that.
“Let’s see what Johnny can do tomorrow.”
Catt says there does not appear to be any sense of extra tension within the Ireland camp.
“No, I think the expectation is within ourselves,” he said.
“We set out to be in this position and fortunately we’ve come through some real tough games to be in this position so there’s enough expectation. We don’t need to worry about anything else.
“We know what we need to do, the players understand what they need to do and it’s now being able to go and do it tomorrow afternoon.
“The pressure hasn’t ramped up at all.”
Catt cautions against taking an England side, hammered 53-10 by France last weekend, for granted and they are “a helluva an 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.
“However, if he gets the ball he can cause absolute chaos.”
The families of the Irish squad plus coaching staff and other backroom members were allowed in to watch Friday’s training session.
Head coach Andy Farrell’s grandson Tommy, son of England back Owen, received a bear hug from his grandfather.
“A hell of a lot of sacrifice goes in from players, coaches, backroom staff, players so it’s always a nice little touch for families to come in and see what mum and dad does,” said Catt.
“Experience the opportunity, especially at Lansdowne Road before the big noise happens tomorrow.”