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Our game is evolving, we are not a one-trick pony - Kiss

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Joe Schmidt's assistant Les Kiss admits that while Ireland have made steady improvements from four years ago, there is still plenty to work on ahead of a crucial year for the team

Joe Schmidt's assistant Les Kiss admits that while Ireland have made steady improvements from four years ago, there is still plenty to work on ahead of a crucial year for the team

SPORTSFILE

Joe Schmidt's assistant Les Kiss admits that while Ireland have made steady improvements from four years ago, there is still plenty to work on ahead of a crucial year for the team

The dust has barely settled on the November series but assistant coach Les Kiss has already switched his focus towards next season.

The Ireland squad will reconvene in Carton House next month as preparations are put in place for the mammoth year ahead.

On the face of it, three wins from three including two southern hemisphere scalps would please any coaching ticket but, as Kiss puts it: "We always feel there is a lot more to come from us."

That is a notion that will excite Irish fans but the stoic expression of the Australian suggests that he isn't about to get carried away any time soon.

Michael Cheika claimed in the aftermath of last Saturday's game that he knew how Ireland would play but Kiss is adamant that Ireland are not a one-dimensional team.

"My response to that is that we're working on all parts of our game to build some variation there," Kiss insists. "We don't want to be a one-trick pony by any means and I don't think we are.

"You know, during the Six Nations, we used the ball in hand a little bit more. This time we kicked a little more, maybe some of it was according to plan, maybe some of it was because players read the situation as it was. We're just trying to a build a more complete way that we can evolve our game as a whole.

"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 of 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."

Speaking in Clontarf at the launch of this season's Ulster Bank Club Rugby Awards, which celebrate the dedication and commitment shown by players, coaches and teams, across all league divisions, Kiss reflected on the last month and as he compared it to the last World Cup cycle four years ago, he almost hesitantly admits that Ireland have improved since then.

Despite criticism from certain quarters that their attacking platform is not what it used to be, the transitional phase that Ireland's midfield in particular are going through must be taken into account and, as Kiss explains, different facets of their strategies all feed into the same grand plan.

Isolation

"I think it's important to realise the game as a whole. Attack, like defence, doesn't work in isolation from other parts of the game, they all contribute to each other," he tells the student-like group of journalists.

"Set-piece is not just built around winning the ball or stopping the opposition ball, it's part of the connected strategy around what it does to the opposition and what it does for yourself.

"It's hard to just isolate one area and forensically look at it in that way, I think it's a combination with a lot of things and that's the way we prefer to approach it.

"But okay, there's been certain evolvement that has been evident. Internally we'll look at it and assess it further from there," Kiss adds.

The always self-critical Paul O'Connell (such are the colossal standards that he sets for himself) maintained that his lineout performance wasn't up to scratch which perhaps contributed towards Ireland's inability to build an attacking platform off the set-piece.

But Kiss is quick to dismiss that notion as he highlights the instant impact that Simon Easterby has had on the forwards.

"One thing that I think is very evident is that Simon has come in and really put another level onto the lineout.

"Of course that it didn't always come through doesn't mean that it's not in a good place.

"Paul and him have been working very hard together to ensure there are options and to build different ways that we can use our lineout.

"It's not a standing still thing. It's a moving-forward thing."

Under this set of coaches, the idea of anything standing still for Ireland is simply not entertained as 2015 looms large.

Irish Independent