Australian Les Kiss, Ireland’s new defence coach, chatted with IrishRugby.ie at Thursday’s coaching staff press conference in Cork, discussing his experience of the ELVs, what it is like working with the Irish players, the area of video analysis and the defensive strengths of the Irish squad.
Former rugby league player Les Kiss, a winger of high regard in his playing days, has carved out a very successful coaching career for himself in the union code.
From his stint as South Africa’s defence coach (2001) through to his long involvement with the NSW Waratahs, with whom he was an assistant, backs and defence coach as well as a video analyst.
Now charged with marshalling Ireland’s defence through a period of uncertainty with the implementation of the ELVs, Kiss has already been heartened by his early dealings with the squad.
“Firstly, with the experience I’ve had with the new laws and my experience as an assistant coach of the Waratahs in that area, there’s something I’ve got to bring from that to our value,” he told IrishRugby.ie, as he took a break from the four-day training camp in Cork.
“And to obviously try and make sure we can assess what the new laws will bring to us.
“But when I looked at the Ireland team and the players available, the excitement level was right up there…because the fighting spirit of this team is great, the attitude of the team is great and since we’ve been in camp, their attentiveness to the work we’re trying to do with them has been fantastic.
“There’s an intention there, there’s a spirit there, there’s an endeavour there by this team and I’m looking forward to hopefully tapping into that with some of my expertise.”
Kiss has some early aims in his new position and is confident he can build on the good work of Graham Steadman, who was Ireland’s defence coach from 2005 to earlier this year.
“There’s some wonderful things there already to work with…obviously been left in pretty good hands by (Graham) Steadman and the coaches in the past.
“I’m looking forward to just developing a couple of different philosophies and other techniques and hopefully that can help the whole picture.”
Dealing with the 13 ELVs, which are being trialled globally in the new season, could prove problematic for Ireland’s players and Kiss admits that experiencing the new laws in match situations will be key.
Commenting on how the ELVs can be coached, he said: “I think there’s no way that you can actually say that this is what it’s going to be. You can give the players an idea. Once they get on that footy field for the first time and experience it, that’s going to be the greatest learning process for them.
“So all we can do is arm them with some ideas and some of the tactical elements we’ve worked on with the experience from New South Wales.
“And once we get into this world, on the field, that’s where we’ll find out where it goes. How the players feel about it is going to be an important part of the learning process and forging where we’re going to go in the future.”
The former London Broncos coach, who has also coached Japanese club IBM, agrees that video analysis has become ‘vital’ in the game and is happy that the Ireland coaching staff will have a video analyst of the calibre of Mervyn Murphy to work with over the next few years.
“Analysis an area that has expanded so much in the last five years. One of careful things we need to have with it is that if you can pump out a set of numbers at the back end, it shouldn’t really drive you.
“You’ve got to be knowing what the game demands here and now. Analysis is a tool to be able to improve what you’re about, assess what you’re doing.
But, in the end, I’m a fan of whatever happens on the field, the players have to have the tactical acumen, the courage, the confidence to back their decisions, to see something, to know what’s going to be there.
“To back that decision and have a group of players that will also back that decision maker’s call. That’s where we need to get to.
“But analysis has become vital in terms of knowing where you stand and knowing what the opposition are about.
“There’s a fair bit of work to do there, we’ve got a great analyst here in Merv Murphy and from what I’ve seen already, we’re going to be well served in that area. All the coaches have already tapped into his expertise.”