Thursday 22 March 2018

Victory all that matters for Kiss as Ireland aim to bring back feel-good factor

Brian O'Driscoll
Brian O'Driscoll
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

ON A day when two Irish managerial eras get under way, Joe Schmidt will get a chance to steal a march on Martin O'Neill by securing his first win as Ireland coach over Samoa at the Aviva Stadium.

Just hours after the FAI unveil their box-office managerial pairing at the Gibson Hotel in Dublin's north inner city, a couple of miles south, the IRFU will be hoping that their star attraction can bring back the feel-good factor that has deserted the international rugby team in the last 12 months.

Schmidt allowed his key man Brian O'Driscoll (right) to sit out the captain's run at the stadium yesterday in an attempt to keep the veteran centre fresh for the gruelling schedule that awaits him.

While his Leinster team played with plenty of style throughout his trophy-laden three-year stint, the New Zealander will want to get his Ireland reign off to a winning start, by any means necessary.

And assistant coach Les Kiss yesterday admitted that while a good opening performance would be a bonus, winning remains the bottom line in international rugby.

"When it's Test match rugby, I think that's a given," the Australian said.

"For each individual there is nothing more important than getting that win.

"But we have to make sure that the win is a result of us doing the things that we have said we'd do.

"We have been focused on that, our performance.

"We have an expectation that we'll do the things that we have practised well."

"Do the right things and put the right amounts of pressure on, with or without the ball, at the set-piece, and if we can do the majority of those things in a good place, that should enhance the way we can perform, which makes winning a more likely outcome."

Ireland come into a tough November series on the back of one of their worst seasons of the professional age and their worst Six Nations performance ever.

Schmidt has kept a number of his big guns in reserve, handing Jack McGrath his first cap and including Chris Henry and Devin Toner from the start.

He will be hoping that his side can match the islanders' physicality and that the likes of Sean O'Brien – who also sat out the team run – Cian Healy and Paul O'Connell can make a big impact off the bench.

Hooker Rory Best acknowledged that the team was under pressure to deliver a result and turn their fortunes around.

"There's an expectation on this group, there always is, whether it's outside pressure or not," the Ulsterman said.

"But every time we meet up we've come from successful provinces, successful clubs and we expect to win games and I think in terms of that pressure, it's there, we all expect to win.

"This is a fresh start for us but that expectation is still there from us. We don't expect to lose games and we expect to perform to a certain level.

"From that point of view, we put pressure on ourselves to perform, we put pressure on ourselves to win the game and, ultimately, that's what it comes down to, that we want to win.

"We expect a performance and when we get that performance we know we have enough skills to win the game."

Irish Independent

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