Ireland to meet New Zealand challenge head on
Les Kiss admits the All Blacks are the “mightiest” test in world rugby but Ireland won’t be intimidated
Jonathan Sexton and Rob Kearney warm up during today’s Captain’s Run at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
New Zealand’s ability to escape pressure situations makes them the “mightiest challenge in rugby”, according to Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss.
Kiss believes the All Blacks deflect the “blowtorch of pressure” better than any other side in the world, by continually increasing the pace of their game.
Ireland have never beaten New Zealand in 27 attempts, but Kiss is adamant Joe Schmidt’s side remain unfazed — even after leaking four tries in 32-15 Australia defeat last weekend.
Backing Ireland to break their Kiwi duck on Sunday, defence specialist Kiss said: “They can move the ball quicker than anyone, they back their skill sets.
“I don’t want to build them up any more, but they do deserve all the press they have had.
“They can have the blowtorch of pressure right on their belly and they still find ways out of those situations.
“This is the mightiest challenge in rugby but it doesn’t scare us off.”
Ireland entered the autumn international November series with high hopes for life under new boss Schmidt.
The former Leinster coach can boast success in every club stint, but has already been alerted to the size of the task with Ireland.
Players like Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell are entering their career twilights, and one of Schmidt’s biggest challenges will be to usher through the next generation — without delay.
Leinster lock Devin Toner has clearly been earmarked as O’Connell’s tight-five partner, winning selection for all three autumn tests.
But Toner is just like a host of other developing Ireland stars: already in their mid-20s, but with far fewer caps than their age.
Kiss sees general progress, but admitted this is not the weekend to make bold projections on the future.
He said: “I always feel under pressure, don’t worry about that, and it gets bigger when you play teams like the All Blacks.
“It was clearly a frustration last week against Australia, it definitely didn’t go according to plan.
“We always talk about the need for intensity and aggression in defence, and this week has been no different.
“We didn’t bring that last week, but we’ve spent time on that now, certainly.
“We’re seeing the green shoots of progress internally, we have to trust that.
“Hopefully we see some gains.
“We’ll have a camp at Christmas and then the Six Nations will be upon us before we know it.
“But we can’t focus on any of that this weekend: the challenge that’s in front of us is pretty evident.
“If we do enough things right in this game we believe we can win it.
“We have to be accurate and physical, and if we get the little technical things right, and build those up, then we will have a chance.”