Kiss trusts players to curb their penalty excesses
After Declan Kidney's explosive outburst in Maynooth last weekend, there may be decent money to be had on a penalty count spread of between three and six in Cardiff tomorrow.
The discipline problems still linger as an issue, despite Kidney's attempts to draw a line in the sand on the issue by upbraiding his recidivist players, with Welsh coach Warren Gatland asserting his right to bend referee Jonathan Kaplan's ear on the topic before kick-off.
"It is something we will talk to the referee about," said Gatland when pressed on the issue of Ireland's penalty concession rate (34), although ironically it lags behind Wales (36).
"I know Andy Robinson made a big deal about it after their game," Gatland said. "And it is something we'll talk to the referee about at the breakdown.
"With someone like Jonathan Kaplan, he is a world-class referee, so we just hope he allows us the opportunity to get quick ball. We need to be accurate at the breakdown ourselves in attack, but if we do get our chance to get quick ball, it gives us a chance to keep it in hand and play some attacking rugby.
"That will be a key focus for us and we will be talking to the ref about hopefully getting his co-operation in that area."
For his part, Irish coach Les Kiss -- attack coach Alan Gaffney has not appeared before the media this week after his controversial comments a fortnight ago -- believes his players are more appreciative of the tortuous tackle interpretations than critics suggest.
"They are critical of themselves, they have a variety of ways they can actually put pressure on the tackle and the breakdown," said the defence guru before the squad's rocky landing in Cardiff airport yesterday afternoon.
"We've talked about how we can improve in that area. They trust themselves and each other and are building in more of that. I have complete trust in how they're going about the job.
"Obviously, we would like to knock a penalty off here and there, it's been said by everyone. I have full trust in the guys and in how they are approaching it and how they are dealing with it at training."
And Kiss appreciates that the Welsh eagerness for quick ball is reflected in their team selection.
"It's an interesting selection. They've stuck with Jones, Roberts and Hook. I figured they might put Jonathan Davies back in, he's a good young player. The guys have a lot of respect for him, they've put a leap of faith in Hook to take control of that 10 channel," said Kiss.
"You can see the danger that he does pose and Williams imposes himself as well, that's two real dangerous threats at first receiver. They can unleash two good big players in the midfield as well, so you can see where they are going."
Certainly, Wales' attack coach Rob Howley has a clear vision.
"Jonathan Davies has lines of running, and he's very deceptive over the five yards," said the former scrum-half. "It's a mix and match with Jamie in the centre and it's nice to give them another opportunity to play together.
"When you look at the back-line and the threats, I feel Mike Phillips is going to be a running threat at nine. Mike has come under a fair amount of criticism over the last couple of games and in some respects rightly so.
"We want players to go on the field and make decisions and Mike is a quality player. Sometimes when it's not happening for you, you try and force the issue. But I think you'll see a different Mike Phillips on Saturday.
"Then you've got James at 10. We are fortunate to have two 10s equally capable of playing international rugby. We felt James went particularly well in the first 25 minutes up in Scotland. He needs to focus and concentrate on the rest of the game.
"It's difficult for James when you are not playing regional rugby week-in, week-out. We all learn by our experiences when we play international rugby. I felt James started off really well against Scotland. He is flair 10.
"The experience Stephen Jones brings off the bench is so important to us. James warrants his start at 10 because of the way he played in that first 25 minutes. But he knows that 25 minutes has to be 80 minutes against a very good 10 playing for Ireland."