Les Kiss issues warning to players: ‘You can hijack yourself before you know it’

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Les Kiss has warned Ireland’s fringe stars not to hijack their own chances of World Cup selection against Wales in Cardiff.

Defence coach Kiss has challenged Ireland to focus “minute by minute” in Saturday’s opening World Cup warm-up match at the Millennium Stadium.

Head coach Joe Schmidt will cut seven players from his World Cup training squad next week, with Paddy Jackson, Donnacha Ryan and Tommy O’Donnell among those starting on Saturday desperate to impress.

Fly-half Jackson will win his first Test cap for 17 months in Cardiff, with Kiss demanding a level of game management to rival first-string playmaker Johnny Sexton.

“With any situation that’s in front of us at the moment you can get lost in the big picture, but we just try to bring it back to the things right in front of us,” said Kiss.

“And each individual has to have the mental toughness to be able to do that as well.

“You can hijack yourself before you know it, if you’re thinking ahead of your game and you’re not locked into what you have to be, here and now.

“We visited here earlier in the year in the Six Nations, we didn’t get the result we wanted, and I’m pretty sure they will be committed to making sure we go away without the result we’d wish this time as well.

“So for each individual it’s the challenge to make sure they can keep their focus to where it is – the task at hand, this Test match.

“Minute by minute, let’s deliver – and see what happens from there.”

Ulster playmaker Jackson dislocated his elbow against Toulon in January, wrecking his chances of RBS 6 Nations action.

The 23-year-old is fit and eyeing an assured performance at Ireland’s tiller in Cardiff however, in what could be a straight fight with Ian Madigan to make the final World Cup cut.

Ireland must submit their final 31-man World Cup squad on August 31, before launching their Pool D campaign against Canada in Cardiff on September 19.

Kiss called on Jackson to summon every ounce of tactical kicking nous against Wales this weekend – an area where British and Irish Lions outside-half Sexton excels.

“Paddy had an injury-fractured year last season, if you want to call it that, but he came back at the back-end of the year and really delivered some nice rugby,” said Kiss.

“He played flat at the line, picked his options well, his passing game was good, he squared up the line, took the line on a few times.

“I think from that perspective there were some nice touches, and obviously the area he’s really working on a lot more is his kicking game.

“When you go up a level in this game you’ve got to make the most of all the different spaces on the pitch, it’s not only in front of you, sometimes it’s in the corners or in the air.

“So we’re just looking for a good balanced performance from him in terms of stepping up to the plate from where he finished the year.”

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