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Neil Doak relishes return of Kiss as Director of Ulster Rugby

By Jonathan Bradley

Les Kiss returns to Kingspan Stadium today to begin his reign as the province's new director of rugby with the defensive guru sure to have mixed feelings over what he saw in Ulster's 32-28 defeat to Munster on Friday night.

In the summer of 2014, after the twin departures of David Humphreys and coach Mark Anscombe, Kiss filled the void on a temporary basis but his permanent return to the fold, originally announced over 13 months ago, had to wait until the 50-year-old's contract with IRFU ended at the conclusion of the World Cup.

Having shown his face in Belfast last Monday, the remainder of Kiss's week was taken up with the debrief of another Irish quarter-final failure, so his first game in charge will be Sunday's encounter with Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.

However, he will surely have cast an eye over events at Thomond Park at the weekend where, despite Ulster playing an enthralling brand of rugby that yielded two bonus points, it was a third away defeat of the campaign after they also shipped five tries.

With the players returning to training tomorrow, head coach Neil Doak thinks he can forge a fruitful partnership with the man who will now be atop the province's coaching ticket.

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When asked what Kiss will add to the mix, he said: "The experience he will bring, as I'm still a young coach. I'm not saying Les is old but he's a little bit more experienced than me."

"We're in this game to learn and get better, every day and every week, and it will give me a chance, along with Clarkey (Allen Clarke) and Joe (Barakat) to sit down and bounce things off each other and try to grow our knowledge.

"We'll be able to look at things slightly differently so I think it will be a great complement for all four of us.

"Les and I worked together on the national tour to America and we know each other pretty well."

Forward Dan Tuohy, who has worked with the Australian throughout the entirety of his Ireland career, is hoping Kiss can make the desired impact with much of, what has to date been, a disjointed season still ahead.

"There's only six games gone, there's 16 still left to play," said the lock. "There are Irish players to come back in and obviously Les will be joining this week.

"It's about being a well rounded team.

"Our home form has been so good but we need to finish things off better away from home."

Winger Andrew Trimble left the interpro loss with hamstring tightness and Doak has said he will be monitored ahead of the weekend trip to Wales.

"There was just a little bit of fatigue so he'll be checked to see what his playing capabilities are for next week.

"His hamstring just became a little bit tight so we just wanted to bring him off as a precaution."

The Dragons contest is the last in the Pro12 before the European campaign begins with a trip to Oyonnax on November 14.

Belfast Telegraph


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