Bundee Aki has praised the impact of Ireland attack coach Mike Catt as Andy Farrell's side prepare for the resumption of their Guinness Six Nations campaign against Italy on Saturday.

The former England international and coach linked up with Ireland after the 2019 Rugby World Cup and had been part of the coaching team for the first three rounds of the Six Nations before the coronavirus pandemic saw the Irish team's last two matches postponed.

Aki feels Catt has added another dimension to Ireland's attack.

"Mike has been very good to be fair," he said.

"The way he's implemented different ways of attack, has been able to see things a bit earlier, see space a bit earlier, been able to express ourselves as players, he's been a great addition for us as players.

"He's very intense but he also knows what the craic is. Once training's finished, he knows well to have a laugh with the boys which is bloody awesome.

Head coach Andy Farrell and assistant coach Mike Catt (left)

"But when it's work time, he's in there putting you under pressure, telling you what you need to do better and how you can be better as a player.

"So far, I've thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm sure all the lads would say the same thing."

Five centres are in the current Ireland squad for the tournament run-in, with Aki vying against Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, Stuart McCloskey and Chris Farrell for the two slots in the team.

"Having all the top five centres in the country fit and healthy and ready to rock and roll, it gives a competitive edge between us as a playing group," he said, describing all of his fellow centres' recent form as "phenomenal".

"But then it makes us better as a group and tighter as a group to share our strengths and our weaknesses together.

"To have all five of us is a testament to every single player who's worked their butts off to get here."

Aki has been in good form since rugby resumed in August, including a brace of tries against Glasgow at the start of the month as the new Guinness Pro14 season got underway again.

While he is not sure that it constitutes the best form of his career, he feels the time away during the lockdown has given him renewed impetus to hit the ground running. 

"I wouldn't say the form of my life. I've enjoyed lockdown a fair bit but then again, missing the game of rugby, obviously it's tough times for us and everybody at this time," he said.

"Working away on my own and being away with my family made me miss the game more and more and it made me itch to be out there to play together with the brothers out there. It was great to be out there and to be able to do what we do and what we love, especially in the crisis that we're in now."

Follow Ireland v Italy (3.30pm Saturday) with our live blog on RTÉ Sport Online and the RTÉ News app or listen to live commentary on Saturday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1. 

Follow Ireland v Italy in the Women's Six Nations (6.30pm) live on RTÉ2 and on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra.