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Monday 20 August 2018

Ireland get a kiss of life

Defence coach insists O'Gara recall does not mean shackles on against Scotland

Ireland defence coach Les Kiss has promised "the handbrake" has not been put on Ireland's game plan because Ronan O'Gara will start in place of Jonathan Sexton at Murrayfield tomorrow.

"It has always been about the result. A handbrake? I wouldn't call it that at all. It is just an understanding of how we adjust to suit certain circumstances to give ourselves the type of leverage we want in a game," he said.

The single most devastating statistic from the defeat to France was that Ireland gave away seven kickable penalties out of their total concession of nine because they played from deep and lost control of the ball.

Once Sexton was hauled off, O'Gara lashed a wonderful angled kick to the corner, which spawned a try, and varied his approach and options.



Balance

"Field position is an important part of the game. Possession is an important part of the game. It is just getting that balance right. That is what we've talked about," admitted Kiss.

Hence, Ireland remain committed to a running game, just not within the three-point area of their own posts: "We may have shifted our priorities in certain places. But, I don't think it is a handbrake at all."

Earlier in his career, O'Gara was forthright about his belief that he was superior to then competitor David Humphreys. He let Eddie O'Sullivan feel his wrath. Age has brought perspective.

"I have to say, over the last period, when he hasn't probably got the call he would have liked, he has been absolutely brilliant, facilitated everything for Jonny (Sexton) and that has been reciprocated back from Jonny."

Even so, the fire still burns inside the Munster playmaker. The advent of Sexton has fostered an itch he will get to scratch tomorrow.

"He is itching for it, for sure -- no doubt about it," said Kiss.

Perhaps, there is some justification in the Irish management and players feeling they have been treated harshly by referees. There has been communication with the International Rugby Board Referee Manager Paddy O'Brien.

"We do understand what they want. We do engage in the process after every game. We do talk to Paddy O'Brien," stated Ireland manager Paul McNaughton. "There are two areas. One is where you control yourself. Les and the coaches work on this after every game. (Referee) Alain Rolland was in working on that.

"There is other stuff outside our control which are, in our view, misjudgments or errors made in relation to penalties. We've been involved in the process. We've discussed it after the Italian game, after the French game.

"There has been confirmation back that there were several penalties in the Italian game and a number of crucial ones, two if not three, in the French game that were errors against us."

The decision to appoint Welshman Nigel Owens, often seen as Munster and Leinster's favourite referee, will ensure there will be no excuses tomorrow for Scotland or Ireland.

Scotland: C Paterson; N Walker, N de Luca, S Lamont, M Evans; R Jackson, M Blair; A Jacobsen, R Ford, M Low, R Gray, A Kellock (capt), K Brown, J Barclay, J Beattie.

Ireland: L Fitzgerald; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy, K Earls; R O'Gara, E Reddan; C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell, S O'Brien, D Wallace, J Heaslip.

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