Less Kiss will be looking for significant improvement in backline tackling

Ireland missed 16 tackles against Argentina, of which 11 were made by an unusually porous backline

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 01:00

Aside from not rewarding visits deep into the Pumas’ 22 with scores, by far the most disappointing aspect of the Irish performance in last Saturday’s first Test were the amount of missed tackles. Ireland missed 16 tackles, of which 11 were made by an unusually porous Irish backline.

Allowance has to be made for the team having been re-jigged and with it being so rusty – 13 of the starting side hadn’t played in three or four weeks, including the entire backline. There could be up to a further seven changes to the run-on XV for the second Test when the team is announced tomorrow, but even so Ireland, and especially defence coach Les Kiss, will be looking for a significant improvement.

“I was disappointed with a couple of elements of defence. Rightfully the players were as well. There were some good things as well but more important there was just one-on-one misses, particularly in the back line which was disappointing.

“That is probably an individual focus for each player, a concentration focus to make sure that you are at the top of your technique because these individuals are very sharp. They have great footwork, they are very strong. We talked about it before the game last week that we cannot just enter a tackle zone and go through the motions. You’ve got to hit, stick and finish off the back end because they are good fighters and they work.”

Kiss largely absolved the pack, where Chris Henry, Iain Henderson and Robbie Diack led the way with 36 tackles between them and only two missed, but what compounded the defensive flaws was the amount of preparatory work they had done on these Pumas. “We had video profiles on these players, we know them inside out basically and we offered them opportunities. I’ll be looking for an increase in focus and concentration and making sure that individually they’re nailed on. If that drops a bit it does give them a chance.”

Defensive coach

The Irish defensive coach singled out the Argentine left-winger Manual Montero. “We just didn’t knock the boy over. If you give him that space he is dangerous. That’s one example. The bottom line for me was we did scramble really well and sometimes the things the things that do define you isn’t the perfection of the system but it’s how you fight your way out of the crap when it happens. We healed ourselves pretty well most of the time but individuals probably need to get in front of certain things and we’ll keep working on our system.”

Montero’s opposite winger, Andrew Trimble, was unusually the most culpable along with Luke Marshall in missing three tackles, but in mitigation of the Ulster winger, he was coming up against a big, strong, quick and surprisingly nimble-footed winger, the kind who would assuredly have landed a Top 14 or Premiership club by now were it not for the Pumas’ commitments to the Rugby Championship making them less attractive to French and English owners.

Kiss admitted there is “something quite special” about the 22-year-old winger, who has scored 12 tries in 11 Test matches, adding: “There is something about him, he just goes for things. He has got a nice gait. Some people who run with a gait it’s difficult to get on to and it surprises you even when he stops and he starts when he went for the corner. Trimbee was just about to jump him, chop him or give him an ankle tap and he has stopped and it put him out of stride so he has got this knack and rhythm that is a really a good place for him. He is a good player but I’d also say we gave him some space to show that too much. Hopefully we don’t offer that again.

‘Take his space’

“You have just got to stay big, get into him, take his space and chop, you have just got to be able to surprise his elements and take away the areas he feels comfortable in. If you can change that, then he has got to find another solution and maybe he doesn’t have that solution yet.”

The Irish management will be keeping an intent eye on all of the 29-man squad each day – “we are assessing them all the time, there’s no qualms about that” – for the remainder of what Kiss says has been an informative tour.

Kiss himself will then travel to Romania to see the Emerging Ireland team play their second game of the IRB Nations Cup against the hosts on Sunday week, while Joe Schmidt will travel to New Zealand to catch the tail-end of the IRB Junior World Championships, where the Irish Under-20s have reached the semi-finals against England on Sunday.

In the meantime, the squad travelled up to Tucuman yesterday and are bracing themselves for a more passionate and testing environment in such a rugby heartland, as well as a much better pitch albeit with a cramped changing area which team manager Mick Kearney likened to “something out of a badly run down club from the 1970s.”

“In memory of playing there, not personally but coaching teams, the Waratahs, I think, it is quite a passionate environment,” said Kiss. “Whatever it is we have to deal with it. We all know this. Whatever is dealt up that’s what this opportunity is for, we will see what this tour is about and how our players handle it. We expect that it’s going to be massively physical test. There’s no doubt that they would probably feel that they’ve got more to offer and try and cut out some of the errors, they’ll tap into their local support up there and it’s a massive, massive test, so shoulders on.”

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