Getting to grips with the introduction of the Experimental Law Variations, Ireland coach Declan Kidney says it is difficult to know what to make of them so far and that it is only when the players return to competitive action that they will really get a handle on them.
“It’s difficult really because the matches in June were played under the old laws. The Tri Nations is been played under the new laws, plus another few – where everything is going to penalties and free-kicks.
“So it has been a little bit difficult to judge that then when you know it’s going to be a little bit different for us from August 1 – a lot of the free-kicks that are being given now will be full-on penalties. At the moment it’s tap and go or take a scrum,” commented Declan Kidney at his first Ireland press conference.
The Corkman feels that the lineout and kicking out of hand are two aspects of Ireland’s play that will be probably be tested by the ELVs, and his players should also be braced for longer periods with the ball in play.
“The lineouts could come back into vogue a bit more than they are in the Tri Nations at the moment, where there seems to be probably more scrums than there is lineouts statistically, which is a bit of a change from what we had heretofore.
“I suppose we won’t fully know it, and that’s why it will be important to get the players in on games from the start of the season this year, just to find their way themselves.
“Some of the little things we have noticed and talking to Les (Kiss) and a few other guys about it too that have experience of it already was, the fitness standards need to be up a bit so they were inclined to let the players be a kilo or two lighter if that meant that their aerobic fitness was better.
“The passages of play are just going on for so much longer. I think there was one Super 14 game that went to six minutes from the very start, whereas before a three-minute phase would have been very long.
“I’d say we can expect three, four or five of those in a game now. A few more two-minute phases and that’s going to put its own demands on players too, but it’s only perception.
“Everybody is saying that the ball is in play more, but the fact that it’s in play might not mean it is being run with ball-in-hand.
“There seems to be a lot more kicking than there was before, and that is why Mark (Tainton) has been out and about with the players over the last three or four weeks,” he added.
“That’s a skill we are going to have to improve on, and it won’t be good enough that just one or two guys are going to be able to kick the ball in the coming season. I think it is going to take four, five maybe six guys who can put the ball half the length of the field.”
Kidney has been greatly encouraged by the players’ appetite for work at this week’s training camp, which has included some fitness testing as part of their pre-season condition programme.
Discussing the make-up of the 45-man squad he named for the Cork get-together, he said: “In picking the squad, what we tried to do was try to recognise how everybody went on the tours in the summer months.
“Like the guys in June in New Zealand and Australia, they all trained well and went about themselves and you could say they were a bit unlucky not to come away with something. So we felt they all deserved a go.
“The guys who were on Churchill Cup duty, a lot of them put themselves about. You didn’t want to have ridiculously high numbers so we went for the happy medium of calling in that number (45), knowing that some guys wouldn’t be able to come in for one reason or another.”