“Last week, the boys put in a solid effort against a team that didn’t have a lot of opportunities to get the ball against us.” Ireland defence coach Les Kiss giving his verdict on the defensive performance against Canada. The All Blacks are the opponents this Saturday and an altogether greater challenge awaits the men in green.
Going from facing the 15th-ranked Canadians to tackling the world leading All Blacks is quite some task, and all in the space of seven days.
Ireland’s defensive allignments will undergo the first serious test of Declan Kidney’s reign this Saturday at Croke Park, and the squad’s defence coach Les Kiss is eager to see how the Irish fare against New Zealand.
He said: “We’ve been working on our systems and this will be a good test for us. New Zealand aren’t an easy team to analyse simply because you have to look at so many players.
“They have a lot of threats right across the park. That’s why you rely on a team defence that actually understands what they can throw at you.
“The reality is that you can only cover so much. The rest of it comes from the willingness of your group to be able to cover those options, and to be able to cover the surprise packages that come up.”
The former Australian rugby league winger knows that both back-threes are bound to be targeted for some aerial bombardment, particularly with wind and rain expected for the Croke Park clash.
He noted that the four tries New Zealand scored against Scotland last Saturday all came from ‘varying kinds of kicks.’
“The aerial game is something they do rely on. They create their pressure through that type of game, and also trying to make the situation where the errors come from the opposition. They’re very good at that.”
Turning his attention to Ireland’s play, Kiss surmised: “Our game is about trying to turn the pressure and make sure they feel the heat as much as we do.
‘The scrum half and back row for Saturday wasn’t the highlight of the selection, that’s for sure. All facets were covered and it came down to the best mix we could come up with.”
With finishers of the calibre of Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu out wide and Dan Carter making the plays behind a dynamic pack, New Zealand boast threats ‘all over the park’, as Kiss acknowledged.
“The type of threat they provide is something that everyone on the park has to be aware of.
“New Zealand have picked, I believe, a team that has the third most caps of any team they’ve ever selected, so they’ve obviously gone for a team with experience.
“I think they understand the challenges ahead of them. I don’t think that anyone in our whole group would expect anything less.
“We want to do our job and if we can do it against the best they can offer, then even better.”
The topic of kicking, which is cropping up more and more in this season of ELVs, was drawn on again by Kiss when he was asked how Ireland can target the All Blacks and knock them off their game?
“I think every team has their individuals that you have to look out for. Increasingly though, it’s about the collective package.
“It’s about what you can put together from your set piece through to your strategies from there.
“Obviously, there’s been a lot of focus recently on the kicking game and you probably expect that players have that in their arsenal as well.
“So the player that has not only the attacking prowess but also the right tactical decision-making as to when he should run or kick, also starts to put another blend on top of the individual that is dangerous.
“It’s multi-dimensional, it’s not just about whether he’s got footwork. It’s whether he’s got the finesse to pick the right options on the park and each team has their own.”
Did he have a certain Mr. Carter in mind when making that point? “Yeah, he’s one,” Kiss added, “and we’ve got a couple as well.”