Irish focusing on defence

2015-09-19 09:49
Jonathan Sexton (Gallo Images)

Cardiff - Ireland will be looking for a significant improvement in their defensive effort when they open their Rugby World Cup campaign against Canada in Cardiff this weekend, assistant coach Les Kiss said on Friday.

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After miserly defence helped Ireland to this year's Six Nations title, they have been less impressive during an underwhelming World Cup warm-up campaign, conceding nine tries and 80 points in losing two of four matches.

Defence coach Kiss said the use of different player combinations and some "little things" going wrong had contributed to a more porous defensive line but was confident the underlying structure was sound.

"We firmly believe there's no real issues, just make your one-on-one tackles and commit to the system," the Australian told a news conference on the eve of Saturday's match.

"Historically, we've been pretty good in defence and it's a massive part of our game.

"We need to step up against this Canadian side, it's well recognised that they have a sevens pedigree (and) some handy footballers.

"We've progressed well in defence, our feedback to the players has been solid and stern at times and we're hoping for a really good response."

Pool D also includes France, Italy and Romania and if Ireland are to fulfill their ambition of reaching the semi-finals for the first time, they will need to defend their line against better attacks than the largely part-time Canadians.

Although he shied away from agreeing that strong defences win World Cups, Kiss said it was one of the pillars of any good side.

"I like to think that our defence is something that can serve the rest of our game, it's not just about stopping the opposition and being miserly in tries against," he added.

"If you can create opportunities for turnover ball or pressure teams into doing things they don't like, that's a good place to be."

In Kiss's opinion, it is the teams that can score tries against the best defences that will fight it out for the Webb Ellis Cup.

Canada's defence might not be counted among the world's best but Kiss said it would not be easy for Ireland to break it down at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

"They've had some really good, strong periods of defence and they've had a long period of time together," he said.

"I think that slowly but surely they are building more coherence to their defensive systems.

"They've got some big hitters and we need to be in a good place in terms of our game and making sure we control our footwork to beat those guys."

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