Defence coach admits Irish have work cut out to nullify attacking prowess of Sunday’s opponents
IRELAND defence coach Les Kiss must feel like he has the hardest job in rugby this week.
As they tend to do, France have been transformed from the block of cheese full of holes in November to a radiant force of beauty come the Six Nations.
If anything, the French attack has been strengthened, at least in the back three, by coach Marc Lievremont’s selection of Clement Poitrenaud at full-back.
A shoulder injury to Maxime Mermoz has led to Damien Traille moving forward into the inside centre berth as the only change to their side from last Saturday.
“It is the way they finished the match. It was good to see half the game to see how they operate under that combination,” said Kiss.
“They got smashed by seven or eight tries in the autumn. I think that was something of an anomaly.
They’ve got back to their values and they played very well, launching off an impressive set-piece.”
For all their nonchalance in powering over the top of Scotland, France have buckled 11 times in defence of their try line in the last two games. It must be a source of concern for them but a source of encouragement for Ireland.
“You don’t ignore it. There are certain areas of concern for them without a doubt in terms of their defence.
“It doesn’t define them as a team on the downward trend. That is for sure. What we saw from them last week is probably more true to form.”
Certainly, Ireland will have to clamp down on France, deny them the Rolls-Royce platform they had in Paris and minimise the offloads to support runners. It is a challenge and a half.
“We are trying to work harder on having an adaptable defence. When you charge your players with that opportunity to make decisions, if you get a mis-read, it puts you under a little bit of pressure,” said Kiss.
It can and does come down to splitsecond decisions that are made based on trust of the defensive system. For example, Luke Fitzgerald came in when he could have stayed wide for the concession of Italy’s try in Rome.
“Whether you take the space, or whether you cool your jets and let them waste their space, for your own benefit, it is getting those reads right. It is a work in progress – what a terrible thing to say. We are trying to get that better.” Ireland team manager Paul McNaughton described Andrew Trimble as “good to go” and Jamie Heaslip, who took a full part in training, as “definitely a possibility”, while Stephen Ferris was “very doubtful”.
Therefore, Ireland delayed naming of their team until lunch-time today.