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Monday 24 September 2018

Drico's kiss of life

Irish No 13 remains one of the best centres in rugby says defence coach

Brian O'Driscoll
Brian O'Driscoll
Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss

Ireland v Samoa, The Aviva Stadium, Tonight (KO 5.45) Live RTÉ 2

Ireland defence coach Les Kiss still believes Brian O'Driscoll is at the "top edge" of international rugby, at the start of his final season in the game.

This came with a murmur of concern that O'Driscoll had sat out the Captain's Run yesterday morning, sparking questions over the fitness of Ireland's centre.

Kiss moved quickly to calm the whisper that O'Driscoll might be a doubt: "He knows his body," said Kiss.

"Those decisions come through logic and how he feels about himself. He knows when he's right. There is no smoke and mirrors behind this. He just felt it right to sit it out, not have that run."

O'Driscoll conserves his energy for when it is most needed. His durability will be tested to the full over the next three Saturdays.

Kiss is confident O'Driscoll will be able to remind everyone that he still has it at the highest level of the game.

"I think Brian has to be considered one of the best thirteens still in the world, without a doubt," said Kiss.

"There are certainly some guns around the place, like Conrad Smith, who has certainly been really consistent lately. But, I don't think Brian falls off the edge in any area at the moment.

"He's commitment to everything, in terms of his preparation, is brilliant".

This claim comes despite the fact that O'Driscoll (right) has been restricted to just 73 stunning minutes of rugby this season against Cardiff Blues in the PRO12 League at the end of September.

"His game, when you saw him come on for his first game this year, was sublime. His skills sets are still there and his appetite for it is still there," added Kiss.

The great ones change with the times because they can do what mere mortals can't, adapt, overcome, dominate, even in a sport where giants roam the midfield these days.

"The real true champions of the game, or true warriors that survive, they find other elements of their make-up to improve on and to adjust and adapt to what the demands are.

"He is still one of the most physical thirteens at the tackle. He is a handful in that area. He is like another number seven out in the backline.

"The way that he runs his running lines and works with supports (lines) around him and his nice little subtle passes that he can use which open space for others are things that have improved even more over the last five years.

"He has always had it. But, I think it is something that he's made sure that he's been able to home even further to make sure he stays at the top edge".

O'Driscoll was said to have ruled himself out of the mix for the captaincy, recognising that there is a need for Ireland to plan for the future.

The new management and the players have increased the pressure by talking themselves up, in stark contrast to the humble approach under Declan Kidney

"There is expectation around us, we know. But, it couldn't be greater than the expectation we put on ourselves to perform well," said Kiss.

"It is about making sure we live up to what we've talked about. We can say a lot of things. But, the truth is in doing the stuff and doing it with the intention and the accuracy we've practiced for".

There has been confusion over which is more important, the result or the performance. Gordon D'Arcy and Seán O'Brien have mentioned winning all three November internationals. Others have been more careful.

Kiss wants the victory: "Nothing more important than getting that win. The win is a result of the things we say we'll do, but more importantly, that we do what we say we'll do."

Ireland: R Kearney; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, F McFadden; P Jackson, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, M Ross; M McCarthy, D Toner; P O'Mahony, C Henry, J Heaslip.

Samoa: F Autagavaia; A Leiua, G Pisi, J Leota, B Vaalu; T Pisi, K Fotualii (capt); S Taulafo, W Avei, L Mulipola, F Lemalu, T Paulo, O Treviranus, J Lam, T Tuifua.

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