Monday 14 October 2019

Kiss: Tour will get players primed for Schmidt era

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

AS IRELAND injury updates go, this was as brief as they come. What Declan Kidney would have done to have such a clean bill of health just a few months ago.

Les Kiss will be hoping that the days of GUBU have passed and that the national team's decision to base themselves in Houston's medical district next week does not prove prophetic.

Stuart Olding's ankle will be monitored this week and James Downey is on standby should the Ulster prospect fail to recover. Mike Ross has a dead leg. End of bulletin.

So, instead of worrying about half of the squad being in the treatment room rather than on the pitch, Kiss had time to mull over a tour that will fly somewhat under the radar at home, but will be closely monitored by his new boss Joe Schmidt, who watched the training at Carton House yesterday.

The New Zealander played a part in picking the squad, but his role here remains as an observer. He didn't don the IRFU garb pitchside, while Kiss declared that his role was to put the players through their paces, so that they are in good shape when Schmidt takes over.

"Joe hasn't had a chance to be a part of anything," the Australian said.

"He just said he wants to come along and watch, to know how things are working. He will come in and put his stamp on it (later). There's no doubt about that.

"There are certain ways and ambitions of how we want to play and, hopefully, we will see some advancement in that on the tour.

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"The important thing at the moment is that we are really happy that the players have come in and really focused on what's in front of us.

"Joe's influence will begin, but initially probably in other areas – in observation, in training, in looking at players and that will build from there."

The team have a down day today before training tomorrow and Friday ahead of their visit to Houston where temperatures are tipping the 35C mark this week.

So, why are they headed for the Texan city?

"Houston is the sports capital of the USA, so they have a fairly aggressive sports authority out there," manager Mick Kearney explained.

"The budget of the Houston Sports Authority is $80m to attract events, so they've got golf, tennis, baseball, basketball, American football.

"For a city that's not massively populated, it's got a massive sporting structure and the stadium we're playing at, which is the local soccer stadium, is gorgeous, so we've got the venue and we're pretty sure at this stage it'll be a 22,000 sell out."

* TG4 yesterday announced they had secured the rights to show both the USA game and the meeting with Canada live.

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