Les Kiss and Rory Best at the pre-match press conference. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

View from the Frontline: Simon Hick's World Cup dispatches, Part 1

Les Kiss believes that this group of Irish players deserve better than they’ve got so far. What’s going wrong, asks Simon Hick.

MOST PROFESSIONAL SPORTS people have worked out by now that if they’re boring enough in their press conferences, journalists will eventually stop asking them questions. It’s the easy option and the popular option.

There are, however, still a few players and coaches who enjoy the cut and thrust of a debate, take it for what it is, risk the possible headlines, and just speak their mind anyway. Irish defence coach Les Kiss is one of the rare breed.

Today in Eden Park, he was the appointed man for the final pre-match press conference. He stopped short of saying stopping Will Genia and Quade Cooper represented the greatest challenge in his career, but he did pause to consider what this game meant for him and the players, and his answer is one we can take as the truth.

He said this group deserved better than what they’ve got — for all their hard work, for their commitment, for their dedication to the cause. He might just mean that they deserve to play well and put in a performance that equals their talent, but his statement raises an interesting point about Irish rugby.

Special characters

Every professional team works hard, but this group has a few special characters, the kind that Irish fans don’t often get to see represent their country.

Looking at, listening to and speaking with Paul O’Connell this week, you get a sense of a man possessed, a man tired of the poor performances and the silly errors and the muddled gameplans. He just wants to win, and will do anything to make that happen.

O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, O’Gara and a few more are of the same mindset. In 2007, when it wasn’t going right, they started doing extra training sessions, lineout drills in the car park of the hotel in their spare time, more team meetings, more analysis… but the performances just got worse.

Monumental effort

The question then, has to be asked: have this team worked too hard, but not smart enough?

For them to win the bigger games takes a monumental effort, the kind of emotional and physcial storm a boxer only puts in every six months. The tries don’t come easy, the gaps don’t appear, and the chances don’t get finished. That’s why we struggle to put back-to-back performances together.

Australia, though, seem to glide to victories, like a downhill jog.

Quade Cooper often goes untouched for the whole 80 minutes while you see O’Gara and Sexton repeatedly tackling huge men, their heads rocking back on their necks in the process. Quade Cooper can’t tackle, so they move him to wing or full-back for all set plays. Simple, effective, smart.

Somehow, you can’t ever see an Irish team agreeing to do that.

Follow more of Simon’s World Cup thoughts and analysis on Twitter @poshboyhick.

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