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'Tries will win the World Cup,' but Ireland target defensive security

Les Kiss says he and Joe Schmidt have given the players ‘solid and stern’ feedback.

THE MOST WORRYING sight in Ireland’s World Cup warm-up clashes was the breakdown of the defence in the defeat to England.

After some defensive struggles in the loss to Wales a week before, Ireland missed far too many tackles as the English ran amok in the opening quarter at Twickenham. This was not the solidity we had witnessed in 2014 and 2015 Six Nations.

Paul O'Connell Paul O'Connell leads the captain's run yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

In those successes, Ireland conceded fewer tries than any other side, four in 2014 and just three in the 2015 triumph. While there were doubts in some quarters over Ireland’s effectiveness in attack, the defence was a pillar of strength.

The missed tackles and narrow shape Ireland’s defence showed in London might have caused others concern, but defence coach Les Kiss reckons his team are in good shape before today’s World Cup opener against Canada (KO 2.3opm).

“I hope so!” said Kiss with a smile after Ireland’s captain’s run in Cardiff yesterday. “We know what we’ve been doing to build it, slowly but surely. The combinations we had in the (warm-up) games were a bit different to what we’re used to.

I’ve no doubt that with the time they get on the training pitch, and in game time, they’ll be in front of the little things that weren’t quite right. We firmly believe there’s no real issues. Just make your one-on-one tackles, commit to the system.

“We’re in a pretty good place. Historically, we’ve been pretty good in defence and it’s a massive, massive part of our game.”

Kiss underlined the threat Canada’s seven’s internationals will be today, but stated that Ireland’s focus is on their own defensive work.

Kiss and Joe Schmidt’s feedback to the players after the defeats to Wales and England has been “solid and stern at times,” with a positive response expected in defence.

Les Kiss Kiss feels Ireland will respond well to the feedback on defence. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The impression is that defence is the foundation on which this Ireland house is built upon. While there is obviously intent to score tries, win the set-piece battle and dominate the aerial game, it’s defence that appears to have been the priority under Schmidt.

Kiss doesn’t quite see it that way, pointing out that everything is interlinked.

“The game is becoming more and more reliant on each of the pillars of the game. Your set-piece is vital and if your-set piece is great, your defence can be better. If your set-piece is great, you can attack better, so it’s not just our defence.

We rely on our defence starting with our set-piece and even before the set-piece, if the ball goes out, are we ready first?

“All the elements of having a good defence, there’s just so many factors that build into that and that’s the same with our attack, with our kick game, our chase game, there’s so many factors that are interwoven into making sure that your defence can perform as it does.

“I’d like to think that our defence is something that can actually serve the rest of our game. It’s not just about stopping the opposition and being miserly in terms of tries against us and all those things.

“If you can serve the rest of the game, create opportunities for us to get turnover ball or pressure teams into doing things they don’t like, then that’s a good place to be. So, I’d be reluctant to say it’s just about our defence.”

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Jonathan Sexton Johnny Sexton is a key element in attack and defence. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With the pressure mounting as the World Cup begins proper, there will be temptation for some nations to restrict their game plan, reduce any potential for risks and instead rely on kicking, one-out carrying and the set-piece.

Conservative rugby may well be the route for certain sides, but Kiss doesn’t believe that will be the case across the board.

“I’d be reluctant to say that as well,” said Kiss. “Certainly, there’s another form of pressure that prevails.

“Certainly, there’s something at stake that’s huge and that’s for every country at every level in terms of where you place yourself in this cycle and where you get to in terms how you can add quality going forward.

Certainly, that might tighten up some mindsets but I think it’s a combination of all the things. I think the team that gets too conservative may not be the smartest thing. In this game, you need to be able to adapt and react to the moments that are in front of you.

“The team that can see those moments and create the opportunities and clean them up at that moment are going to make a big difference and I’d say that tries will win the World Cup.”

Ireland:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Dave Kearney
13. Jared Payne
12. Luke Fitzgerald
11. Keith Earls
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath
2. Rory Best
3. Mike Ross
4. Iain Henderson
5. Paul O’Connell (captain)
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Sean O’Brien
8. Jamie Heaslip

Replacements:

16. Sean Cronin
17. Cian Healy
18. Nathan White
19. Donnacha Ryan
20. Chris Henry
21. Eoin Reddan
22. Ian Madigan
23. Simon Zebo

Canada:

15. Matt Evans
14. Jeff Hassler
13. Ciaran Hearn
12. Nick Blevins
11. DTH van der Merwe
10. Nathan hirayama
9. Gordon McRorie

1. Hubert Buydens
2. Ray Barkwill
3. Doug Woolridge
4. Brett Beukeboom
5. Jamie Cudmore (captain)
6. Kyle Gilmour
7. John Moonlight
8. Aaron Carpenter

Replacements:

16. Benoir Piffero
17. Djustice Sears-Duru
18. Andrew Tiedermann
19. Jebb Sinclair
20. Richard Thorpe
21. Phil Mack
22. Liam Underwood
23. Conor Trainor

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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