Tuesday 26 March 2019

Under-pressure Kiss insists he is staying put as critics start to circle

Les Kiss
Les Kiss

Michael Sadlier

Les Kiss has defiantly hit back at the groundswell of criticism regarding his future as Ulster's director of rugby following last weekend's 44-16 hammering at Connacht.

Though the six-try record reverse to the western province ended a five-game unbeaten run for Ulster, the immediate aftermath of this humiliating defeat led to speculation that Kiss would not be seeing out his contract which runs until the end of next season.

"There is criticism and that's fine but my job is to not to be sucked into that vortex," said the 53-year-old Australian who is preparing his side for what is now a must-win home clash with Munster on New Year's Day.

"My job is to stay on this and I believe what we're doing is the right thing and we've got to respond on Monday (against Munster).

"That noise is out there. It's been out there for a while and I understand it," he added of criticism that has come his way over Ulster's already unconvincing performances before Connacht struck them down.

"We always feel pressure. It's not something you escape. It's something you revel in as well, you want to be able to stand up to it and fight against it.

"But ultimately it isn't about me," he insisted. "I haven't read one thing on social media. It is about the team and my job along with the coaches is to get it together and crystallise what this means to us and do the job on Monday. That's my focus."

Kiss is clearly a man under pressure but the Australian tried to focus on the positives.

"I have got to say I didn't see it coming and am very disappointed in it," he said of the Connacht visit.

"Equally the players are disappointed in that performance, it is not what we expect of ourselves and we know other people expect better and so they should.

"But we have got this great game that gives us a chance a week later to do things differently and that is what we are after, a response."

Selection-wise for the New Year's Day derby with Munster, Kiss does have Jean Deysel's ball-carrying ability back in harness for the first time since October after the South African shipped a neck injury in the defeat to Leinster.

No doubt it is hoped that Deysel will bring some extra edge when meeting Munster, his former employers, and his power going forward will hopefully give Ulster more front-foot ball than they saw in Galway.

Charles Piutau and Christian Leali'ifano will also make their returns after missing out on Connacht while it is also hoped that Stuart McCloskey will have shaken off some sickness to take his place in the midfield.

Elsewhere, Rob Herring is back after following return-to-play protocols in the wake of the home win over Harlequins as are Kyle McCall and Rodney Ah You who have been out rather longer.

However, sickness and injury have taken their toll with Sean Reidy, Chris Henry, Tommy Bowe, John Andrew, Luke Marshall, Matty Dalton, Rory Best and Jared Payne missing.

Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale are both rested after playing in last weekend's 44-16 debacle.

Irish Independent

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