Ireland working to improve entire game, not just the attack -- Les Kiss

Every tweak to tactics has a knock-on effect.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

LES KISS HOLDS his hands out in front of himself and wiggles his fingers – the universal signal for typing.

It’s been that sort of week.

He has been texting Chris Henry following the flanker’s heart surgery, but the big email activity has been to Joe Schmidt, still recovering from the comparatively minor procedure of having his appendix removed.

“Joe is tough and he’s in a good place. We’re working away trying to get a review process that gets us thinking forward in the right way,” the defence coach said at the launch of the Ulster Bank club rugby awards.

He joked: “I think the medical staff had more issues with the coaches than the players through the campaign. There was flu and back pain and appendicitis…”

He may well laugh. The side he presides over alongside Schmidt has been beaten just once in 12 months, won a Championship, banished a losing streak in Paris and beaten two of the southern hemisphere’s big three just for good measure.

Yet, because of the messages that continually come from the coaches and players in the Ireland setup, there is a strange sense of nagging negativity around Ireland. They haven’t played as fluidly in attack as perhaps they did during the last visit to third place in rugby’s pecking order.

“The answer may not please you,” Kiss responds honestly when asked about how the coaches might ensure Ireland have a clear plan of attack by the World Cup.

“It’s like defence. It doesn’t work in isolation to the other parts of the game; they all contribute to each other.

“Set-pieces are not built around just winning the ball or stopping them taking the ball, it’s built around the connective strategy of what it does to the opposition or what it provides for you.

Les Kiss and Mick McGrath Ireland assistant coach, Les Kiss, was joined by previous award winner, Mick McGrath at the launch of this season’s Ulster Bank Club Rugby Awards in Clontarf. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“It’s hard to just isolate one area and to forensically look at it that way. It’s in combination with a lot of things and that’s the way we prefer to approach it.”

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He added: “We’re working on all parts of our game to build some variation there. We don’t want to be a one trick pony by any means and I don’t think we are. In the Six Nations we used the ball in hand a little bit more, this time we kicked a little bit more. Maybe some of it was around the plan; maybe some of it was because players read the situation as it is.

More to come

“We’re just trying to build a more complete way that we can evolve our game as a whole. I’m reticent to say it’s in one particular are only. I think it’s a combination of things and the strength of our team is that all our parts work well together. Sometimes, some of the parts aren’t as good as they can be, but other parts will work hard to negate a negative effect.”

Fortunately the rules of logic and mathematics still insist that two negatives result in a positive. So the expectation on this Ireland side means more than results.

“In all honesty we always feel there is more to come from ourselves,” Kiss says with a half laugh.

“There are certain things within our group that we hold dear in terms of what performance means to us and what preparation means to us and ultimately we always feel there is more to come from ourselves.”

The Ulster Bank club rugby awards celebrate the dedication and commitment shown by players, coaches and teams, across all UBL Divisions. New categories, including ‘Team of the Year’ have been added to the line-up as the programme takes place for the third successive year. For more information, follow ‘Ulster Bank Rugby’ on Facebook and Twitter.

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Sean Farrell

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