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Kiss Happy With Defensive Development

Kiss Happy With Defensive Development

As we head towards the final two rounds of the 2009 RBS 6 Nations, the numbers are beginning to add up for table-toppers Ireland. They are the team with the most points and tries scored, the least points and tries conceded, the most penalties awarded to and the least conceded.

‘Accuracy’ has been a buzz word in the Irish camp for many years and the precise way with which the Ireland players have taken to their defensive duties in recent games has buoyed the squad’s defence coach Les Kiss.

Ireland missed only two tackles in last weekend’s win over England, giving them a tackle completion rate of 97%, and while the concession of a late try to Delon Armitage was a defensive blot, Kiss roundly praised the 80-minute effort.

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“There’s no doubt I’m disappointed about the concession of a try that late in the game,” he admitted.

“I thought the guys, in general, did a fairly good job across the park in blunting the attacking threats England did have – I know they’ve got a lot of speed in their team and tried to play a little bit of width on us.

“The boys were disciplined in doing what they had to and in particular, the forward pack. The way they’ve embraced certain principles we’ve put in has been fantastic. They’re getting through a lot of work.

“We’re seeing some forwards in wide channels being able to handle those positions and it’s credit to them for the work they’ve done in that area.

‘In the end, you’ve got to just defend the scoreline and we did and that was the main thing.”

If you add in the three November Tests against Canada, New Zealand and Argentina, Ireland have conceded six tries in their first six games on Kiss’ watch, scoring 18 tries in the process.

A very promising start and something which the Australian is determined to build on in the weeks and months ahead.

“Based on the time factor you have to work with the guys, I’m really happy. There’s a lot of things I’d like to advance – we’ve talked about with the team – but this is one step at a time.

“You just have to be happy with where you are at this stage. Make sure you assess how much you chew off in your next level of development and go forward in terms of your planning and make sure that it’s not going too far, too quickly.

“Sometimes you’d like it to go a little more quickly but at this stage their confidence is good in that area (defence).”

Scotland, Ireland’s next opponents, boosted their own confidence with a 26-6 win over Italy last time out with Ulster’s Simon Danielli one of their two try scorers in that game.

Having viewed the video of that match and other recent games involving Scotland, Kiss has a good flavour for what Frank Hadden’s men will offer on Saturday week.

“Against a team that we expect will throw some side-to-side football against us again and try to get to their speed out wide, we’re going to have to be on our toes and make sure the discipline and the principles we’ve put in place stay solid,” he said.

“It’s a game where Scotland will use the mobility they have in the back row, and it’s a very good one.

“They have mobility across the park, then they have (Jason) White in the second row and he’s a six (blindside flanker) as well, so they can shift the ball and they can defend the mid-to-wide channels just as well as we can.

“I don’t know if that means we negate each other, but certainly there should be opportunities across the park on both sides.”

Ireland have won eight of their last nine Test matches against Scotland, with the only defeat during that period coming in a World Cup warm-up encounter at Murrayfield in August 2007.

Ireland’s last RBS 6 Nations visit to the Edinburgh venue in March 2007 ended in a nail-biting 19-18 win.

Ronan O’Gara scored all the points that day – a try, a conversion and four penalty goals – as the Irish secured their third Triple Crown in four years.