independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Kiss wary of England forward threat

England's "ferocious" forward pack will provide a genuine acid test for Ireland's revamped driving maul, according to coach Les Kiss.

Ireland assistant coach Kiss admitted both teams will have seriously considered digressing from their obvious tight driving game strengths in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash at Twickenham.

Forwards coach John Plumtree has whipped Ireland's maul into devastating shape, under the ever-watchful eye of meticulous boss Joe Schmidt.

England's driving play has blossomed under Graham Rowntree, with Kiss expecting the two power games to collide in spectacular fashion in west London this weekend.

While Kiss admits there will be thoughts in both camps of bluff and double bluff in favour of abandoning the maul for wide play, he said at some stage both teams will doubtless launch their driving tactics.

"There is a chance both teams might think 'let's attack it a bit differently', then fake to the maul and go elsewhere," said Kiss.

"Both teams are probably thinking about that as a strategy, but I think there is a part of this game, particularly at Twickenham, where I know England would like to draw a line in that sand in that area."

Elements of the beefed-up English and Irish mauls are noticeably similar, with the common denominator likely to be Paul O'Connell.

The Ireland captain proved a vital pivot in the British and Irish Lions' maul in Australia last summer, where Rowntree was forwards coach.

Former Leicester Tigers prop Rowntree has no doubt helped England benefit from that exchange of information.

And Kiss knows just how tough a challenge it will be for Ireland to exert any kind of dominance in Saturday's tight exchanges.

"We certainly know that we have a lot more improvement in the maul, but we have worked hard to make it a real strength," said Kiss.

"And if there's a game where we'll find out if it is a strength it's this one.

"So there may be some variation from it from both teams, but I do think they are going to lock horns at some stage.

"And it's going to be a true forward battle that possibly determines what else happens around the field.

"We're set for that, and I'm pretty sure by the way that they're set for it as well."

David Wilson has replaced Dan Cole at tighthead prop, the Bath front-rower still recovering from calf trouble himself.

England freely admit Wilson will not last the course, with Sale's international-level rookie Henry Thomas primed for action from the bench.

Kiss warned Ireland not to expect to benefit from England's injury issues purely as a matter of course, however.

"Without a doubt losing Dan Cole is a blow but Wilson has a lot of international experience, and he scrummed well last week for Bath against Exeter," said Kiss.

"The danger for us is to take our eye off the ball there, and think that it will come easy to us - it won't.

"I don't think any part of the game will come easy to us.

"We expect the typical ferocious onslaught from an English forward pack, and the fact that they have had some changes there is something we're not taking our eye off.

"It's not just about the scrum, their maul's become a powerful weapon that if it's structured well early it's a hard thing to stop.

"So you want to try to take away those opportunities as well.

"And if we just get locked in the scrum and the fact that Dan Cole's not there then we're not doing our job properly.

"There are other areas of the game where the English forward pack can hurt you and Dave Wilson can hurt you, we know that: we've seen it.

"We've done the analysis on him and we're very aware that we've got to be prepared ourselves in that area."

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