Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss insists tomorrow’s match against Georgia provides a platform for many players to put themselves in contention for the final GUINNESS Series game against Australia.
There are 13 changes to the Irish starting line-up, including two debutants, and Les Kiss sees it as a chance for those selected to stake a claim for a regular starting role and he is confident they will deliver a performance.
“It’s an opportunity for a lot of people, but the opportunity is to be in the squad for next week (against Australia). That’s what we’ve focused on. It’s a massive chance for guys, for sure,” he said.
“We’ve made some changes, we’ve got our reasons behind that and they are many-fold. The pure fact of the matter is we’ve got 15 guys to start and others coming off the bench who have a great opportunity. We rate that highly, and people will deliver.
“Their opportunity isn’t about anything distant in the future – it’s about what they can do in each minute of the game, so that we can say, ‘you’re worthy to be in that squad for next week’.
“If they want to get too unfocused they will lose their way. It’s about what’s in front of them and next week is what they are aiming for, but that will only happen if they nail what’s in front of them tomorrow.”
Former Ireland scrum half and Connacht head coach Michael Bradley joined Georgia as backs and attack coach in June last year, and the improvements he made were seen when they defeated Canada and Samoa last November.
Their powerful pack, which boasts a large contingent who play their club rugby in France, is backed by a strong back-three who like to counter and a half-back partnership that will kick to the corners. Kiss agrees that some of Georgia’s new-found attacking quality is down to Bradley’s influence.
“Georgia’s an interesting prospect without a doubt, there’s a couple of keys for us. They traditionally have a very good tight five and the work they do there they build their game around.
“But I think with the injection of Michael Bradley they’ve a little bit more expansion in their game. While we’re aiming to blunt their tight five a little bit, we understand they have got a few more tools to use there in the shed.”
Centre Gordon D’Arcy will be the only player from the 2007 Rugby World Cup pool game against Georgia to line out for Ireland tomorrow. Kiss feels the Lelos are a much-changed team who have improved a lot since that tense 14-10 defeat in Bordeaux seven years ago.
Speaking about Ireland’s preparations and where their focus lies leading into tomorrow’s game, the Australian explained: “In recent times Georgia have been an effective team and they have had a lot of victories under this coach (Milton Haig).
“They will be confident in how they go about their game, and they have expanded their game. No one gave them a chance against Samoa last year but they won.
“And even last week in (the 23-9) defeat against Tonga they made it a dogfight for the most part. The main focus has been on what they’ve done recently and making sure we get ourselves right to meet that challenge.”