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Kiss: Series Success Doesn’t Guarantee Us Anything For Six Nations

Kiss: Series Success Doesn’t Guarantee Us Anything For Six Nations

Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss insists that despite the squad’s impressive GUINNESS Series results, nothing is guaranteed as they head into a busy 2015 that begins with their Six Nations title defence.

After three successive victories, two against southern Hemisphere giants South Africa and Australia, expectation levels are growing given Ireland’s current seven-match winning streak. But there are reminders that a good GUINNESS Series does not automatically transfer to a successful Six Nations Championship.

Speaking at the launch of the 2014/15 Ulster Bank League Awards in Clontarf yesterday, Les Kiss said: “It’s pleasing to get the results but we’ve been in the game too long to know that it doesn’t guarantee us anything over the horizon. It doesn’t guarantee us anything for the Six Nations. It is what you do leading up to that and how you deal with the reality in that moment.

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“While it is good to reflect on a job well done in terms of the results, we are not going to be fooled by that. It was three or four years ago France had a terrible November and then went on and won a Grand Slam. You can’t predict those things are going to guarantee you anything going forward.”

The Irish camp had to cope with the untimely loss of flanker Chris Henry during the early stages of the GUINNESS Series, and Kiss confirmed that the Ulsterman is recovering well from ‘a procedure to repair a defect in his heart wall’.

“I think the key thing at the moment is that he’s on recovery. He’s had the surgery. That should get in front of any issues. The big thing for Chris now is to get in a position where he’s well and healthy again – and then we can consider when he returns to play,” he admitted.

“The biggest thing for the immediate window is to get back on his feet and feel healthy again. I think it’s a when (he will return to play, not if). We haven’t got a clear timeline. It’s just a case of getting him well and healthy and assessing him then.”

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt had to have his appendix removed just hours after Ireland’s defeat of the Wallabies. He is well on the mend according to Kiss, who said: “Joe is good. I’ve spoken to him on the phone a couple of times, and we’re in contact by email.

“I’ve spoken with (forwards coach) Simon Easterby earlier today. I was with (scrum coach) Greg Feek yesterday and (strength & conditioning coach) Jason Cowman in my office going through some stuff.

“There’s communication happening and Joe is tough and he’s in a good place. And we’re working away to try and make sure we are thinking forward in the right way.”

Ireland beat the Springboks and Wallabies in the same year for the first time since 2006, while the series also saw opportunities grasped by new caps Jared Payne, Dominic Ryan, Dave Foley and Robin Copeland as well as two assured performances in the centre by Connacht youngster Robbie Henshaw.

Munster second row Foley came in for praise when Kiss was asked about the current squad depth and coping with a lengthy injury list this autumn.

“You’re always looking at creating more depth and breadth in all positions. Certainly when you look at Dave Foley coming through, we certainly needed someone to step into the breach there, when you saw Dan Tuohy, Iain Henderson and Donnacha Ryan not being available,” he said.

“So there was an opportunity there and someone stood up to the mark and put his hand up. I thought there was some benefit coming back in terms of deepening that position.

“The more experience certain props are getting is great. We had Richardt Strauss returning from injury (at hooker) and Sean Cronin stepped up there too. So there is deepening happening in certain players for sure.

“Even missing the like of Trimby (Andrew Trimble) means there is exposure for Simon Zebo and Craig Gilroy (out on the wing) in some sort of small window…so that you actually see them playing at that level a little bit more.”

Following Ireland’s 26-23 victory over Australia, Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika stated that he knew how Ireland were going to play heading into the match. He said his side faced ‘a rain of bombs, a lot of high kicking’ when speaking about the tactics deployed by the hosts.

However, Kiss feels there is a lot more to come from this Irish side, explaining that they are ‘working on all parts of our game to build some variation there’ and that he does not think they are a ‘one-trick pony’.

“In the Six Nations (this year) we used the ball in hand a little bit more. This time we kicked a little bit more, maybe some of it was according to plan, maybe some of it was because players read the situation as it was and we’re just trying to build a more complete way that we can evolve our game as a whole,” he highlighted.

“I’d be reticent to say it’s in one particular area. I think it’s a combination of things and I think it’s a strength or our team that all parts work together, and sometimes some parts aren’t as good as they can be while other parts have to work harder to negate any negative effect in that area.”

One area of Ireland’s game that disappointed at times in the series was the lineout with eight losses from 30 throws. Kiss is not too concerned as he feels the fruits of new forwards coach Easterby’s labour will be seen in the Six Nations.

“Simon has really put another different level on the lineout. It didn’t come through but that doesn’t mean it is not in a good place. Paul (O’Connell) and Simon have worked really hard building their options.

“So, it’s not a standing still thing, it’s a moving forward thing and a process of working through a different approach on how to use the lineout. I think we’ve got some upsides in that area and certainly some things to work on.

“I think the (upcoming December) camp will be where we look at the whole game and see how it all fits together to make sure we’re on top of things that we feel we need to go through to the Six Nations and defend that.”

Questioned about the possibility of Ireland’s attacking play becoming too predictable and the strategies to combat this, the Australian responded: “I think it’s important to always look at the game as a whole. It may not please you, the answer, but like defence, it doesn’t work in isolation to other parts of the game. They all contribute to each other.

“Set pieces are not built around just winning the ball or stopping them taking the ball, it’s part of the connected strategy of what it does to the opposition or what it provides for you.

“It’s hard to just isolate one area and to forensically look at it that way. It’s in combination with a lot of things and that’s the way we prefer to approach it.

“I think there’s been some progress that’s been evident and internally we’ll look at it and assess it further from there.”