Kiss proud of Irish rearguard action
IN terms of defensive performances, the recent fortunes of Ireland and Wales could scarcely be more different heading into next Saturday's Croke Park clash.
From their Carton House base, Irish defence coach Les Kiss and head coach Declan Kidney purred over the rearguard action of their side in Twickenham while across the Irish Sea, Shaun Edwards was defending Wales' record that has seen them concede seven tries in the tournament so far.
"We have slightly different numbers but that is something for the guys to be proud of," Kiss said, when it was put to him that Ireland missed just one tackle in 99 in the win over England. "Those numbers make for good reading, that is for sure."
The win in Twickenham was particularly pleasing for Kiss, who had seen Ireland's rearguard look more out of kilter against France than they have done at any stage during his tenure.
"I wouldn't say anything was off track (in Paris). It was nice to have the quality and intensity in our work in defence that was re-established at that level for the whole game. A few little slip-ups in the French game weren't helpful but it was nice to just put ourselves back to that standard that we expect of ourselves," he said.
In Wales, meanwhile, Edwards suggested the numbers attributed his charges failed to tell the full story.
"Statistics can be a bit frustrating at times," he admitted. "This time in 2008 we'd conceded two tries. This time in 2010 we've conceded two attacking tries when we've had 15 players on the park. That was against Scotland.
"But obviously you are judged on the whole performance and, because of the interceptions we've given away and conceding two tries while down to 14 players, the stats don't look good."
Kiss is expecting an entirely different challenge from Wales, who have passed the ball more and off-loaded in the tackle more than any other team in the tournament.
"Certainly we'll have to turn up in the trenches again. They'll push those wide channels and they also have a handy kicking game. Lee Byrne has a booming left foot. It's a bit different a tactical challenge in that sense."
Kidney expects to have a full hand to pick from for next week. Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls sat out yesterday's session through a slight illness while Tomas O'Leary and Jamie Heaslip rested ankle knocks but all are expected to be fit for action when the squad reconvenes on Sunday.
Rob Kearney's likely availability gives management a selection headache after Geordan Murphy's solid shift at full-back last week. It was in the fourth game of last year's series (away to Scotland) that Kidney deviated most from his regular selection, making four changes. After admitting that the championship is France's to lose and with two games in seven days, Kidney may consider handing some of his less-exposed players valuable game-time.
That would make this weekend's Magners League action all the more significant, with the likes of Shane Jennings pushing hard for inclusion.
"We have a few lads who are going back playing. They need game time because we go into another two-game sequence and there's no point asking a guy to go out against Wales if he hasn't played for two or three weeks.
"If France win their two matches they have it," Kidney continued. "We'll keep chasing, but you don't even think of it like that. We just have a Test match against Wales coming up.
"Where you end up in the table at the end of the year is a consequence of how you go about each match. We need to come out with our top game against Wales."