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Ulster's Les Kiss still adapting to life at the Kingspan

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 01/12/2015

Man in the middle: Les Kiss directs his Ulster stars ahead of Edinburgh's visit to the Kingspan on Friday
Man in the middle: Les Kiss directs his Ulster stars ahead of Edinburgh's visit to the Kingspan on Friday

Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss has admitted that his transition to everyday coaching is taking some getting used to but the Australian insists he is relishing the challenge.

The man charged with taking care of Ireland's defence between 2008 and the end of this year's World Cup has had a month to get his feet under the table at the Kingspan Stadium with three games now having passed since he returned to the club he led on a temporary basis last summer.

The first brought a much-needed away win against Newport at Rodney Parade but since then there have been defeats to Saracens in Europe and Leinster domestically with the province falling to seventh in the PRO12 table over the weekend.

Kiss, the man Ulster coveted as soon as David Humphreys jumped ship to Gloucester in the summer of 2014, will naturally need time to implement new systems and shape the squad to his liking but the need for a quick upturn in results is evident.

Keen to stress the positives of Friday's reverse in the RDS, he acknowledged that he was still finding his feet in the new role.

"It is different for sure," he said. "Even how you prep your week has some different hues to it. I am getting my teeth into it and it is quite interesting.

"I would say I am getting closer and closer as each week goes by and just getting a sense of how it all runs.

"I wouldn't say it's been softly, softly but you've certainly got to go in and get your fingerprints over things. I'm responsible for a lot and I know that two losses in a row, the mindset around that, is something I've got to manage."

With Edinburgh set to visit Belfast on Friday night, Kiss has stressed that it's vital the team continue to build on what he has tried to put in place during his short time at the helm.

"After the Saracens game and this Leinster game, I do think we have put another layer of solid stuff on top of where we need to go," he said.

"You can perform well against the fourth and below in the PRO12, but when you get above that you just have got to get better and better at facing up to that and coming up with the solutions to it.

"I think we got closer against Leinster, who as we know at home are always tough, tough opposition.

"You do not get anywhere by standing still, we have to challenge ourselves and each other in the group.

"We understand the challenge against an Edinburgh side.

"We're at home and we probably owe the fans something after the last time we were there. We owe Kingspan a really good performance."

Despite not crossing the whitewash in their last two contests, Kiss was encouraged by the performance of his backline against Leinster, feeling that Stuart McCloskey especially had been strong while out-half Paddy Jackson grew into the game.

"It's great to have that type of player who has developed nicely," he said of the Bangor-born centre who has impressed with his barnstorming style this season.

"When I was there last year he played some good football and took his opportunities.

"Then he had a few injuries in the middle of the last year but he's started nicely this season.

"He could play at No.6 too if we wanted, he's that sort of athlete. He's got a good range of skill-sets but he's still learning the game.

"We gave him a rest to get him going. He's making his mark but we have to manage that going forward, he can't play every game obviously.

"Him and (Darren) Cave were very good. I thought Paddy really worked his way into the game, and started to develop the acumen that you want from your No.10.

"There's some more things that he can work in but he put some really solid things into the game."

With Ulster still thrilled to have tempted Kiss to the Kingspan, reports in France suggest the man the IRFU had earmarked to replace him has rebuffed their advances.

Ronan O'Gara has served as Racing 92 assistant coach in the Top14 since the 2013-14 season, initially taking responsibility for kicking before adding defence to his repertoire.

Yesterday's Midi Olympique said that the former-Munster out-half, who used his own newspaper column last week to suggest he was more than happy in France, has turned down the chance to become Irish defence coach and will instead extend his stay at the Parisian outfit.

Belfast Telegraph

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