Saturday 27 May 2017

Gaffney talks up attacking potential

David Kelly

David Kelly

For anyone with a taste for the finer things in life, Rome would probably be top of the list, particularly for those with a voracious appetite.

Ireland certainly looked like they were a ravenous outfit yesterday morning, their collective craving whetted by a short, sharp one-hour session at the Aviva Stadium before they headed for the Eternal City later in the day.

"It's been an exciting week with this back-line," enthuses backs coach Alan Gaffney. "There was a lot of enthusiasm, not that there isn't always, but this week it just seems to have picked up another level. Everyone's just gelled together and it's been very good."

The avuncular Aussie flanks defence guru and compatriot, Les Kiss. Both men suffered slings and arrows in 2010 following the glorious heights of 2009, yet last November informed them that incipient improvements can become evident in this championship.

Certainly, Ireland's back three -- including the sole debutant, Fergus McFadden from Leinster's ultra-smooth attacking groove -- have 'counter-attack' written all over them.

"Yeah, it has," agrees Gaffney, who confirmed that he did witness attacking improvements in November, regardless of what many supporters may have surmised.

"We've had it there. We've just got to have the confidence to play that way. You see sides at the present time countering, but you're not going to make a break every time.

"It's providing we secure the ball. We can't do it in a stupid manner. But providing we've got numbers there to go, we'll definitely go. You've these three guys in the backline, as well as the fact that Brian O'Driscoll is working very hard in situations now to punch back to become the fourth member of that attacking foursome.

"So there are the opportunities there to go and the three guys who we've got there at the present time ought to do that, but they also understand that they've got to balance that with a bit of sanity."

Aiding and abetting Ireland's renewed commitment to counter-attacking, the Australian duo readily go along with McFadden's assertion earlier this week that the lines between three-quarter line positions have become more blurred.

"Absolutely," asserts Gaffney. "We work on a lot of phase play and it doesn't really matter what number you've got on your back.

"You've got to have the capacity that if you're a 12 you can fill in at 10, if you're a 14 you can cover inside, it doesn't matter. We develop a lot of our phase play in training based on that, where people don't finish in their traditional positions."

With Kiss presumably confident that his structures can obstruct the limited Italian, predominantly one-out, attacking game, the focus will be on what Gaffney's attacking gambits can bring to the Six Nations kick-off.

"We improved in November," says Gaffney. "We were disappointed with what happened against South Africa and Samoa, but after that we took a step forward in putting our structures in place.

"That has been developing as we have gone on and we hope to hit the ground running over the weekend. We always know it is a tricky place to go, but that's no reason to suggest that we can't go out there and put on a performance that we would be delighted with."

Irish Independent

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