Kiss: Don't wake sleeping Wallaby
Australia may have dropped to fourth on the IRB world rankings, but they are not a team on the slide.
Australia have dropped to fourth on the IRB world rankings and appear to be a team on the slide.
However, Ireland defence coach Les Kiss believes that the Wallabies are in fact a team making strides in the right direction - or as he put it, a giant awakening after slumbering through a season of discontent.
Kiss also knows a fair bit about Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie and believes his stunning, yet "shrewd", selections are set to pay off.
The former Kangaroos and Queensland Rugby League wing just hopes it doesn't all come together this weekend when Ireland and the Wallabies clash in Dublin.
"I know they're not showing a win record [3-9 since McKenzie started] that any coach would prefer to have, but I think they're building to something nicely," Kiss told the Australian Associated Press.
"We definitely need to be aware that they're a sleeping animal. They are waking up slowly but surely, so we've got to be careful."
Kiss got his coaching break with McKenzie at NSW in 2004 and stayed with him at the Waratahs for five seasons before heading overseas.
Despite McKenzie's 0-5 wipe-out by New Zealand and South Africa on taking over from Robbie Deans, Kiss pointed to the Wallabies' 18 tries in their last four Tests and improving defence as reasons why the Irish expect a huge challenge at the redeveloped Lansdowne Road.
The shock decisions to dump James Horwill and Will Genia from the leadership positions and elevate Ben Mowen to the captaincy and Quade Cooper as his deputy were all designed to "shake the trees".
"If it was me I probably wouldn't have done some of them, but that doesn't mean it's not right," Kiss said.
"Cooper being given the vice-captaincy, a shrewd move so he understands his responsibility within the team.
"You can see those things happening: To put Genia on the bench tactically, but also as a clear message.
"I think [McKenzie] is going along fine ... I think they're in a better place than people give them credit for."
Under new coach Joe Schmidt, a Kiwi who led Leinster to European Cup success, Ireland are also attempting to play an expressive and adventurous attacking game.
But indications are they will keep it tight and look to employ many of the same squeezing tactics up front which troubled Australia at the 2011 World Cup in a 15-6 upset at Eden Park.
As defence coach, Kiss is most worried about the threat Genia poses and dismisses any notion the world-class halfback is off his game.
"Massive. Massive. I think it's massive [Genia's threat] and the danger is you put a magnifying glass on him and you take your eye off something else," he said.
I think Quade Cooper is starting to really get his touch back. (Israel) Folau is phenomenal and the man is dynamic in open play given a bit of space."
Ireland's hopes of stretching the Wallabies' three-match winless run against them overseas have gained a boost with dynamic wing Tommy Bowe [calf] returning to training.