Guinness Premiership
Scarlets defeats hurt Exiles - Catt
Huw Baines
April 29, 2010

London Irish coach Mike Catt has pointed to their Heineken Cup defeats at the hands of the Scarlets as the low points in their disappointing season.

The former England utility back has learned the hard way the difficulties of maintaining momentum in Europe, watching his charges go from an away victory over champions Leinster in the opening round of the tournament in October to a meek surrender against the Scarlets a week later.

Now the Exiles face an uphill struggle for a Guinness Premiership play-off berth, a year after they contested their first final, following defeats to Leeds and Gloucester. They sit level on points with Wasps, three behind Bath, who face Leeds this weekend.

"It's been a very long season, but it's the same for many sides," he told ESPNscrum. "The problem for me is that it was disappointment on both fronts. That's just not good enough for where we want to go as a coaching staff, as a group, as a club.

"Losing those two Heineken Cup games against Llanelli was soul destroying. We made really hard work of it. We went away to Leinster and beat them and then lost to Llanelli the very next week. Those disappointments really hurt us and now the back end of the season has hurt us too. As a young coach I've learned a hell of a lot in adversity."

Catt, 38, has again rolled back the years to play this season but admitted that the Exiles' last game of the season, against Northampton at the Madejski, would likely mark his final on-field appearance.

"This is probably the last time' I'll roll out for Irish next weekend," he said. "We've got Daniel Bowden coming in, a New Zealander, to cover the 10, 12 area which I used to. That will put a bit of pressure on [Seilala] Mapusua as well to make sure he performs consistently well."

By the time of the Saints game Irish will have been out of action for two weeks, something that Catt is grateful for as they look to end their season on a high and ensure a say in the race for the last four. With a number of injured players nearing fitness, including prop Clarke Dermody, lock Nick Kennedy and wing Sailosi Tagicakibau, there could be a welcome boost for their final fling.

"It's been a massive benefit for us," Catt said. "Not making any excuses, but we could get two or three key players back that we've missed over the past three to four months. That extra week gives us an opportunity to see a few of the bigger names back."

The brainchild of England rugby legend Phil Greening, the Rugby Masters 10s tournament is all about bringing former legends of the sport back onto the pitch to raise money for various charities including the Rainbow Trust Children's Charity and the Christina Noble Children's Foundation. Teams include Wasps, Quins, Sale, Saracens, London Irish, Gloucester, Bath and CNCF. Players include veterans Mike Catt, Steve Hanley, Matt Perry, Phil Greening, Rory Jenkins, Mike Teague plus many more. The event, taking place this Sunday, promises to be a blast for everyone who attends. Tickets are just £10 for adults and £5 for children and concessions. To book, call 0871 527 1315 or go to

Huw Baines is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

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